Sen. Roderick Wright, the sponsor of two California online poker bills both introduced in 2012, faces a possible eight years behind bars after being found guilty of perjury and fraudulent voting.
Wright pled not guilty to eight counts – five for fraudulent voting, two counts of perjury, and a single count of filing a false declaration of candidacy – but was convicted of them all in a jury trial. Jurors sided with testimony that showed Wright to be domiciled in a home outside of his Inglewood district, a no-no according to state statutes.
While he did also have a home within his district, Wright was found to be there infrequently and was done in by testimony from his Baldwin Hills neighbors who saw him at that location most often. Wright’s case was not helped by evidence showing his closet at the Baldwin Hills address filled with clothes and a number of luxury autos there, the L.A Times reported.
In February 2012, Wright and Sen. Darrell Steinberg co-sponsored SB 1463, an intrastate Internet poker-only bill. The proposal failed to gain momentum. In December of the same year, Wright was the lone sponsor of SB 51, which was quite similar to the measure he had supported with his colleague 10 months earlier. That bill also was never voted upon by lawmakers.
The state’s racetracks, cardrooms and Indian tribes could not find common ground among the particulars of each proposal. Indications are that the gaming interests in California may be getting closer to reaching a compromise, but Wright may not be around to see it. Should two-thirds of his fellow senators vote to oust him from office, Wright will be forced to leave the state Senate while his attorneys appeal his conviction.
“We hold Sen. Wright in high regard,” Steinberg said, speaking on behalf of himself and his colleagues.
Wright is free on $45,000 bond and his sentencing is scheduled for March 12. The fate of online poker in California remains up in the air, as does the fate of Wright until his fellow lawmakers decide what to do and the appeals court looks over his case.
California tops the 50 states in terms of population. Should an online poker bill become approved in the Golden State, it could have a tremendous effect on other states that may be contemplating similar legislation. But at least one report from a noted gaming expert indicates that a greater likelihood of Internet poker finding approval in California would be in 2015 rather than this year.