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Appellate Court Reinstates Fraud Charges Against Inglewood Lawmaker

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A state appeals court panel Tuesday ordered a judge to reinstate charges that had been dismissed against Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), who was indicted last year in connection with allegations that he lived outside the district he was elected to represent.

In a six-page ruling, the three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal instructed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy to reinstate two counts of fraudulent voting that were dismissed March 3 against Wright.

The judge had granted the defense’s request to dismiss the two felony charges, but refused to dismiss six other counts against the senator.

The appellate court panel’s ruling was lauded by the district attorney’s office.

“We were optimistic that would be the result,” said Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman.

Wright’s attorney, Winston Kevin McKesson, said the defense would discuss its options, including asking the California Supreme Court to review the issue.

“We disagree with the court of appeals’ ruling wholeheartedly,” McKesson said. “We believe the trial court’s decision was right.”

A grand jury indictment handed up last Sept. 13 charged Wright with two counts of perjury by declaration, one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy and five counts of fraudulent voting.

Wright claimed when he announced his candidacy in February 2008 that he lives in a five-unit apartment complex he owns on Glenway Drive in Inglewood, which is within the 25th District, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

He also claimed that address when he registered to vote in 2007, prosecutors said.

Investigators determined, however, that Wright has actually lived since 2000 in a home in Baldwin Hills, which is in the 26th state Senate district, according to prosecutors.

The indictment capped an investigation that began in October 2008, when prosecutors received a complaint that he was allegedly living outside the district.

The indictment alleges that the crimes occurred between March 2007 and September 2009.

“Senator Wright complied with the law,” McKesson said after the grand jury indictment was unsealed Sept. 16. “We maintain that he followed the law.”

Wright, who had previously served three terms in the Assembly, won the June 2008 primary and was elected to the Senate during the general election in November 2008.

The biography on his Senate website states that Wright “is a home and business owner in the city of Inglewood where he remains active in community and civic affairs.”

Wright’s 25th District includes Inglewood, Gardena, Compton, Hawthorne, Long Beach, San Pedro and Westchester.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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