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California

Prosecutors ask judge to sentence Richard Alarcon to 180 days in jail

Alarcon verdict
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, were convicted in July of lying about where they lived so Alarcon could run for a seat on the council.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence former City Councilman Richard Alarcon to 180 days in County Jail and 1,000 hours of community service for his conviction on charges of perjury and voter fraud.

“Richard Alarcon is not remorseful,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Gilmer wrote in a sentencing memorandum to Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli. “He remains utterly unrepentant.”

Alarcon, a veteran San Fernando Valley politician, and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, were found guilty in July of lying about where they lived so Alarcon could run for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council.

Convicted of four felonies, Alarcon faces a maximum of six years in state prison, and Montes de Oca Alarcon faces five years and four months.

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“If Alarcon does not receive custody time in the County Jail it sends the wrong message,” Gilmer said.

Alarcon and his wife have said they are innocent, and their lawyers have filed motions seeking a new trial. The couple is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, but lawyers say they think the sentencing will be delayed pending that appeal. Richard Lasting, Alarcon’s attorney, said he was hopeful the judge would grant a new trial.

In her sentencing recommendation, also signed by Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, Gilmer wrote that “it is hard to imagine a more egregious perjury case” than the Alarcons’. She described their claims that they lived in the 7th Council District as part of “a brazen scam” and “a particularly deceitful scheme” to get Alarcon a council seat and enhance his pension.

A jury found that Alarcon, 60, and his wife did not actually live in the Panorama City house that they claimed as their residence, but instead lived just outside its borders in a bigger, nicer home in Sun Valley, outside the 7th Council District.

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Alarcon was a councilman until last year, when he stepped down because of term limits. His earlier political career includes years as an assemblyman and state senator and dates back to the administration of Mayor Tom Bradley, who picked him to deal with San Fernando Valley issues.

In addition to the jail time, Gilmer recommended that Richard Alarcon complete 1,000 hours of community service — 500 for graffiti removal — in Council District 7 and five years’ probation. He would also be barred from holding public office.

The recommendation for Montes de Oca Alarcon, 49, is five years’ probation and 500 hours of community service in Council District 7.

Gilmer said that although Montes de Oca Alarcon was an “active participant in creating the illusion,” of the couple’s residence, she “did not take advantage of a position of trust that was given to Richard Alarcon by his constituents when they elected him as their councilman.”

Gilmer wrote that probation alone for Alarcon was not a strong enough deterrent to keep other elected officials from lying about their residency. California law requires that candidates live in the districts they seek to represent.

She said that if the punishment is probation alone, “for many, the benefits of having political prestige, a nice salary, a county vehicle and a lifetime pension from their accumulated service outweigh the risk of potentially getting caught for disregarding the residency laws while in office.”

Alarcon is the latest in a string of local politicians who have come under fire for violating residency requirements.

Along with Sen. Roderick Wright, who was convicted on similar charges in January, Alarcon became the ninth politician since 2002 to be successfully prosecuted in Los Angeles County for living outside the district they seek to represent. Two of those convicted were sentenced to six months in County Jail.

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Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School, said the recommended sentence for Alarcon seems reasonable given the nature of the crime. Because these aren’t violent crimes, prosecutors are less likely to push for the maximum possible sentence, she said.

“In a lot of ways, the victory is the conviction,” she said. “It’s the idea that you did this, you broke the law, that’s a problem, and you will face some sort of punishment.”

The memorandum also recommends that if the judge thinks jail time is too harsh, Alarcon be confined to house arrest for 180 days.

Follow @skarlamangla for continuing coverage of the Alarcon trial.


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