L.A. city Councilman Richard Alarcon got into some hot water after a squatter broke into his home and thus, he said, temporarily forced him out of his own district in 2010. That brought allegations that he hadn't been living there for a while -- neighbors said the place appeared to be abandoned -- and had instead stayed in a house nearby but outside the district.
And that could be illegal. Well, justice has spoken:
Criminal charges against the pol and his wife (false declaration of candidacy, voter fraud, perjury) that alleged Alarcon and family had been living outside his district were dropped by Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy today.
She said prosecutors had not presented balanced evidence to the contrary -- that the East San Fernando Valley councilman might have actually been living in his district -- to a grand jury that ultimately indicted Alarcon and his wife.
In a statement sent to the Weekly and other outlets, Alarcon said:
My wife and I are obviously very pleased with the Judge's ruling today. 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.
He admitted that he moved outside the district -- but he says it was temporary -- after the squatter broke in, defecated in a bathtub, threw clothing around and generally trashed the place. The guy was arrested. Alarcon said his daughter was scared to live there.
But then it was reported that water use was unusually low at the Panorama City home -- not enough, it would seem, to support a whole family. And there was the whole thing about neighbors rarely seeing him.
Then there was this:
The squatter returned to the home a few months later! We're talking about home that Alarcon and his family were supposed to be living in. Whoa, that house has more security problems than a Secret Service advance team.
Anyway, District Attorney Steve Cooley sounds like he's not about to let this drop. He states:
Judge Kathleen Kennedy's decision today to dismiss the Alarcon case is inexplicable. We will vigorously prosecute this case. We are evaluating our options to proceed.
[Update at 4:16]: The District Attorney's office this afternoon stated it would re-file the exact same case against Alarcon and his wife:
In dismissing the indictment, Judge Kennedy ruled prosecutors had failed to follow proper procedures in submitting evidence from the couple's attorneys to the Grand Jury in July 2010.
Cooley disputed her legal reasoning, saying the judge ignored legal precedents when she dismissed the Grand Jury indictment.
D.A. Steve Cooley:
The Grand Jury transcripts clearly show that our prosecutors did indeed present evidence submitted by the councilman and his wife. The Grand Jury chose not to consider it, as is their right.
A recap of the charges from the office:
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The complaint charges him with two felony counts of filing a false declaration of candidacy on Dec. 6, 2006 and again on Nov. 6, 2008. He is charged with seven counts of voter fraud involving elections in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He is charged with nine counts of perjury, including three for allegedly filing false driver's license applications.
Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon is charged with three counts of perjury for allegedly claiming that she lived at the Nordhoff address on a Provisional Voting Ballot, in registering to vote and on a driver's license application. She also is charged with three counts of voter fraud.
[Update at 1 p.m. Friday]: Alarcon and his wife pleaded not guilty once more in court this morning. They issued this statement:
My wife and I have maintained our innocence throughout this process and we have always believed that when all of the evidence is considered, that we will be found innocent. We were pleased that yesterday, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy ruled to dismiss all of the charges against us, and we remain confident that once the exonerating evidence we provided is considered, that we will be acquitted of these charges.