With just a few prosecution witnesses left to call, the perjury and voter fraud case against former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon focused Tuesday on testimony from two fellow politicians.
Alarcon and his wife have been accused of lying about whether they lived at a house in Panorama City so Alarcon could run to represent the council's 7th District. Since the trial began last month, mostly neighbors and utility workers have taken the stand to suggest that the Alarcons didn't spend enough time at the Panorama City home to meet the legal definition of a permanent residence. Prosecutors said the couple actually lived in a bigger home in Sun Valley.
FOR THE RECORD:
Alarcon trial: An article in the July 9 LATExtra about the perjury and voter fraud trial of Richard Alarcon and his wife said the two could be sent to jail if convicted. The couple could be sent to state prison.
Lawyers for the Alarcons said the couple was renovating the Panorama City home, so they were not always there — but that they always planned to return and, therefore, it was their permanent residence.
Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Gilmer called former City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) to suggest that Alarcon wanted to live outside his district in Sun Valley and never intended to make a permanent home in Panorama City.
Gruel testified that when she was on the City Council in 2007, Alarcon asked "if I would consider moving the boundaries to include his fiance's house."
Greuel represented the 2nd District, which included the Sun Valley home owned by Alarcon's now wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon. Greuel said she looked into Alarcon's request to give him that piece of her district but decided against it because it would split a community between districts.
The Alarcons' attorneys said such redistricting requests are common. They brought up a similar motion Greuel introduced for Councilman Tom LaBonge, but Greuel said she didn't remember that motion or the reason behind it.
Together, the Alarcons face 22 felony counts in connection with allegedly lying about their residence in campaign, voter registration and Department of Motor Vehicles documents between 2006 and 2009. Alarcon served on the City Council until last year.
If convicted on all counts, Alarcon, 60, could face up to five years and his wife up to four years in jail.
The City Charter requires that candidates reside in the district they seek to represent. The defense has emphasized a part of the state election code that says a residence, for the purposes of running for office, is a place that one plans to return to after an absence.
Gilmer called Bocanegra, who had worked for Alarcon in 2007 before he won an Assembly seat, to suggest the Alarcons weren't planning to make the Panorama City home a permanent residence.
Bocanegra testified that he met with land-use consultant Pauline Amond two or three times in 2007 to discuss rezoning the Alarcons' Panorama City home so it could be developed into a condominium complex.
Amond took the witness stand Tuesday as well and said she was hired by Montes de Oca Alarcon. Amond said she helped draft a zoning change request so the home could become a nine-unit complex. The prosecutor also showed the jury an architect's blueprint of a condominium complex for that site.
Alarcon's lawyer Richard Lasting pointed out that the plan hadn't moved forward, and the zoning change Amond referenced had never been signed by the Alarcons. Montes de Oca Alarcon's attorney Mark Overland made a similar argument, indicating that a cost analysis was never done for the project.
Throughout the trial, Gilmer, the prosecutor, has described Alarcon, a Democrat, as a "career politician" who lied about where he lived so he could hold his council office. She said Alarcon had won a seat in the Assembly in 2006 and immediately decided to run for a council seat that had been left vacant in the same election. Three days after Alarcon won his state position, he registered to vote in Panorama City.
Gilmer used Bocanegra to bolster that argument Tuesday, asking him about pension and retirement benefits for elected officials. Bocanegra said that although members of the Assembly do not get pension or other retirement benefits, L.A. City Council members do.
The prosecution is expected to call its last witness by Thursday, with the trial concluding by the end of next week. It's unclear whether the Alarcons will testify for the defense.