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Alarcon, wife decline to testify; defense rests in voter fraud trial

Alarcon, wife decline to testify; defense rests in voter fraud trial
Attorney Courtney Overland, left, with former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon during opening statements. (Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times)

The defense in the perjury and voter fraud trial of Richard Alarcon rested its case Tuesday with neither the former Los Angeles city councilman nor his wife taking the witness stand on their own behalf.

Alarcon and his wife have been accused of falsely stating that they lived in a home in Panorama City in the 7th Council District between 2006 and 2009 so he could run to represent the district, which he did until his term ended last year. The City Charter requires that candidates reside in the district they seek to represent.

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The Alarcons say that they weren't always at their Panorama City home because they were renovating, but that it remained their permanent residence.

On Tuesday, the defense called as a witness Jose Manuel Rodriguez, who refinished a bathtub in the Alarcon home in November 2007. Rodriguez said it appeared the home was under construction.

Under cross-examination, Rodriguez said he believed the house was being renovated because "it was vacant. There was no one inside. There was absolutely nothing inside."

Prosecutors allege that Alarcon and his wife didn't live in the Panorama City home, but actually lived in a larger home outside the district in Sun Valley.

Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Gilmer asked Rodriguez if anyone was home when he arrived at the Panorama City house to do the repairs. Rodriguez said that no one was, but that he called the phone number on the invoice and a person drove there in about 10 minutes. 

The jury also learned Tuesday that Alarcon ordered a bathroom faucet for the Panorama City home in 2009, and that both Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, had accounts opened at Home Depot.

Together, the Alarcons face more than 20 felony counts stemming from charges of lying about their residence in campaign, voter registration and Department of Motor Vehicles documents between 2006 and 2009. If convicted, Alarcon could face five years in state prison and his wife could face four years.

The trial began last month, and the defense began calling witnesses Monday.

Robert Arias, president of Communities in Schools and friend of Alarcon, testified for the defense Tuesday that he and Alarcon attended a conference together in Sept. 2009. He said that one of Alarcon's staffers picked up Arias, and then they went to pick up Alarcon so they could head to the airport around 8 p.m. 

Arias said they picked up Alarcon at the Panorama City home, and that his wife and their two children came outside to see him off, wearing pajamas.

Prosecutor Gilmer asked Arias about when he had been to the Panorama City home, and he said he had hadn't been inside before 2010.

Gilmer's exchanges with Arias became tense when she asked him if the Sun Valley home or the Panorama City home was nicer, and he said, "They both looked lived in," and would not choose one. Under further questioning, he said Sun Valley was bigger and better landscaped.

Gilmer referred to a transcript from an interview of Arias by a district attorney's investigator, in which Arias called the Sun Valley home a "huge, beautiful house and it appeared to be where they lived." Arias said he didn't recall saying that.

Miguel Montes de Oca, brother of Flora Montes de Oca, testified Tuesday that he did construction work on the Panorama City house between 2007 and 2008 as part of a class he was in. The jury was shown photos of remodeling in several parts of the house.

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Closing arguments are set to begin Wednesday, with the trial expected to conclude by the end of the week.

Follow @skarlamangla on Twitter for continuing coverage of the Alarcon trial. 

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