A veteran Latino lawmaker claimed a legal victory Thursday when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dismissed a high-profile perjury and voter fraud case against City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife.
Judge Kathleen Kennedy dismissed the case, saying prosecutors failed to present evidence to the grand jury that undercut its case.
At a hearing in March, Kennedy had accused Deputy District Attorney Lentz Snyder of being “very dismissive” of defense evidence submitted to a grand jury in 2010.
That grand jury returned a 24-count felony indictment alleging perjury and voter fraud involving Alarcon’s legal residence. The Alarcons pleaded not guilty.
“My wife and I are obviously very pleased with the judge’s ruling today,” Alarcon said in a statement. “We have maintained our innocence throughout this process and have always believed that when all of the evidence is considered, we would be found innocent.”
Alarcon’s attorney, Fred Woocher said it’s unclear what damage has been done to the councilman’s political future. Termed out of serving on the City Council, he is now running for a seat back in the State Assembly where he is not term-limited.
“What (the dismissal) makes clear is that he was indicted unfairly,” Woocher said.
Earlier Kennedy had criticized the prosecutor for seemingly stacking the deck against the Alarcons in proceedings before the grand jury that indicted them by making light of evidence submitted by their attorney that appeared to document that the couple was indeed living at the house where they claimed to live.
Prosecutors were also ignoring statements from neighbors, relatives and workers who were prepared to testify that the Nordhoff home is the Alarcons’ primary residence and that they were frequently there.
The judge scolded the prosecutor for her reaction to witnesses that the defense said would testify that the Alarcons regularly ordered fast food, picked up prescriptions and shopped at the local Home Depot for materials needed to renovate the ranch-style home on Nordhoff Street.
Related story: Will L.A. Councilman Alarcon become a symbol of injustice?
Prosecutors hinted they may refile charges.
“The case is not over in our mind by any stretch,” Snyder said.
Alarcon’s supporters have long claimed that the 58-year-old had been unfairly targeted by ambitious prosecutors.
From the beginning, the criminal case seemed shaky. Alarcon had listed a ranch-style house on Nordhoff Street in Panorama City - within his city council district – as his legal residence. His wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, owned that house as well as another home in nearby Sun Valley, which is outside his district. Prosecutors alleged that the lawmaker actually resided in that second house and violated election laws.
Alarcon has since moved to a third house – a three-bedroom home in nearby Mission Hills which is also owned by his wife. This residence permits him to run for the 39th Assembly District he is now seeking.
If there was ever a power broker who knew how to play political music chairs in the era of term limits, it has been Alarcon.
First elected to the city council in 1993, he jumped to the state Senate in 1998 barely a year into his second term. In 2006, termed out in the Senate, he elbowed out two other Latinos to win a state Assembly seat. But before even being sworn into office, capitalizing on a new law circumventing term limits, Alarcon announced he would seek a third term on the City Council.
Then, as the 2010 redistricting neared, Alarcon appeared to be the leading name for a new Latino Congressional seat that was certain to be carved out in the heavily Hispanic San Fernando Valley.