Former Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife can be retried on voter fraud and perjury charges, a judge ruled Friday.
Superior Court Judge George Lomeli made the ruling after an appeals court panel in January threw out felony convictions against the longtime San Fernando Valley politician and his wife.
The judge encouraged both sides to resolve the case, saying a misdemeanor conviction would be a fair outcome.
The District Attorney’s Office declined comment.
Alarcon is challenging Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) in the 29th Congressional District election Tuesday but has not actively campaigned.
Lomeli set a Jan. 27 hearing to discuss a possible retrial date for the couple.
In 2014, a jury found Alarcon and his wife guilty of lying about where they lived so that he could run for a City Council seat. Alarcon spent almost two months under house arrest and was barred from ever holding public office again.
But in January, justices in California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal threw out the convictions, saying the judge had given improper jury instructions.
Two months later, Alarcon, 62, announced he would run for Congress against Cardenas, who represents much of the east San Fernando Valley.
Shortly afterwards, prosecutors announced their intention to retry Alarcon and his wife on the same four charges the appellate court overturned.
Defense attorneys moved to have Lomeli throw out the case, a request the judge denied.
Alarcon was initially convicted of three counts of fraudulent voting and one count of perjury by declaration, but was acquitted of a dozen other felony counts.
The charges on which he was convicted involved fraudulent voting in the November 2008 and the March and May elections in 2009, and perjury by declaration involving his November 2008 declaration of intent to become a city council candidate.
He was sentenced in October 2014 to a 120-day jail term, along with 600 hours of community service, five years probation and barred from holding public office.
He surrendered in December 2014 to begin serving the jail term and was sent home after being fitted with an electronic monitoring device.
Alarcon’s wife was convicted of two counts of fraudulent voting in the March 2009 and May 2009 elections, and one count of perjury by declaration involving a provisional ballot in November 2008, and acquitted of two other counts. She was sentenced to 400 hours of community service and five years probation.
In their appeal, defense attorneys contended that Lomeli erred by giving the jury an instruction on domicile during the Alarcons’ trial regarding allegations that they had lived outside the district he was elected to represent.
In the 15-page ruling released in January, the appellate court panel ruled that the jury instruction required jurors to determine whether the Alarcons had physically resided at the home inside his City Council district.
“Once the jurors found that defendants had not done so, the mandatory presumption of (the jury instruction) required them to find that home was not defendants’ legal domicile,” the justices wrote. The panel found that it “cannot conclude that the instructional error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Deputy District Attorney Michele Gilmer told jurors during the trial that the evidence proved the couple lied about living at the Panorama City home inside Alarcon’s district.
Alarcon — who served two separate terms on the city council along with stints in the state Senate and Assembly — insisted that he began living at the Panorama City home within the council district in November 2006.
Shortly after a search warrant was served, the longtime legislator told reporters that an intruder had caused significant damage to the Panorama City home during an October 2009 break-in and that he had returned to the house several times to try to repair the damage. He said then that he and his wife were temporarily staying at a house in an adjacent council district.
In July 2010, just before a grand jury indicted Alarcon and his wife, he said: “Because my wife owns two homes and we have stayed in both of them during the last four years, I can understand the confusion, but my permanent home has always been on Nordhoff Street (in Panorama City), regardless of where I may stay.”
—City News Service
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