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Councilwoman Gets Jail for Lying About Address

Suspended Huntington Park official lives in Downey. Her council seat will be vacated.

November 15, 2002|George Ramos | Times Staff Writer

A suspended Huntington Park city councilwoman was sentenced Thursday to 180 days in County Jail and put on five years' probation after being convicted last month of falsely stating where she really lived.

Linda Luz Guevara, who was convicted on four felony counts, had claimed that she lived in Huntington Park when she actually lives in nearby Downey.

Guevara, 45, is the first elected officeholder to be convicted because of a prosecution by Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley's newly formed public integrity unit, which was created to fight public corruption. A council candidate in South Gate was convicted last year of lying about where he lived.

Although Guevara was silent in court, six supporters and friends, including her husband, asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Mintz for lenience while also maintaining her innocence.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 27, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 ..CF: Y 10 inches; 369 words Type of Material: Correction
Guevara trial -- A story in the California section Nov. 15 incorrectly reported evidence presented by prosecutors during the trial of Huntington Park Councilwoman Linda Guevara, who was convicted of falsely claiming she lived in Huntington Park when she actually lived in Downey. The story said investigators from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office observed Guevara return regularly to a house in Downey. In fact, prosecutors presented evidence showing that she had returned one time to the Downey home.

"I've known a lot of politicians.... I've never seen a straighter arrow than my wife. Never," said husband Cipriano Terrazas, who cried as he spoke.

"We haven't done anything wrong," he said.

Outside court, he brusquely turned aside a reporter's request for a comment from Guevara, who was wearing a white sweater with an embroidered American flag on its front. "Get out of our face!" Terrazas yelled.

In asking for lenience, her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Francis Bennett, told Mintz that Guevara had been humiliated by her suspension from office after her conviction on two felony counts of perjury and two of filing false declarations of candidacy.

"She has already paid a heavy price," Bennett said.

Once formal notice of her sentence is received by the city, her seat will be declared vacant, officials said.

After hearing from Guevara's supporters, Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Goodwin said the case against her wasn't about her worthiness as an official.

"This isn't a referendum about her service as a City Council member," he said. "She doesn't live in Huntington Park."

During a two-week trial, Guevara testified that she lived during the week with her mother and brother in a three-bedroom house in Huntington Park. On weekends, she said, she lived in Downey with her husband and son.

In early morning raids at both homes in May 2001, investigators found Guevara at the Downey residence. During their surveillance of her daily routine, they said, they saw Guevara return regularly to the Downey home.

In imposing a sentence of five years' probation and 180 days in jail and a $200 fine, Mintz said Huntington Park residents have a right to expect that she and other elected officials live in the city they represent.

He also noted that she hadn't expressed any remorse.

The judge rejected a prosecution request that, as a condition of probation, she be prohibited from participating in political campaigns or related activities. Such a ban, he said, was unwarranted.

"There wasn't anything wrong in her service" as a councilwoman, Mintz said.

However, since she was convicted of perjury, a felony, she is prohibited by state law from holding public office. Guevara was ordered to surrender on Jan. 8.

At that time, county probation officials may file a report that could allow her to participate in work furlough or a monitoring program instead of going to jail.

Huntington Park officials said the case has taken its toll on the city.

"It's been hell for everybody," Mayor Ric Loya said. "The city can now focus more easily on serving its residents."

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