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Huntington Park Councilwoman Guilty of Perjury

The two-term official will be allowed to serve until she is sentenced for lying about residency.

October 22, 2002|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

Huntington Park Councilwoman Linda Luz Guevara was convicted Monday on four felony counts for lying about her residency -- claiming to live in Huntington Park when she really lives in Downey.

Guevara testified that she sleeps on an air mattress in her mother's living room in Huntington Park, but a jury took three hours to determine that her true residence is a house in Downey that she shares with her husband and son.

A two-term councilwoman, Guevara faces a potential four-year prison term but could receive probation at her sentencing hearing scheduled Nov. 14.

Guevara showed no emotion as the court clerk read the verdict, but her husband, sitting in the nearly empty downtown Los Angeles courtroom, broke down crying, muttering "Oh my God" between sobs.

Guevara's conviction marks the first time an elected official might be ousted from office by Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley's public integrity unit. Prosecutors said Guevara can serve until the judge issues a sentence.

Under state law, an elected official convicted of perjury cannot hold office. Guevara was convicted on two counts each of perjury and filing false declarations of candidacy. "We're hoping to send a message to candidates and politicians who lie about their residency," said David Demerjian, who heads the public integrity unit.

Two others have been convicted of similar charges, including a former Compton school board member who pleaded guilty this month and a former South Gate City Council candidate who was convicted on seven felony counts earlier this year.

Guevara, a 45-year-old paralegal, declined to comment as she left the courtroom.

At the two-week trial, testimony centered on where Guevara's real residence was when she filed candidacy papers in the 1997 and 1999 elections.

According to Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Goodwin, Guevara testified that she lived during the week in Huntington Park with her mother and brother in a three-bedroom home. On weekends, Guevara said, she lived in Downey.

When investigators launched early-morning raids at both homes in May 2001, they found Guevara at the Downey residence. During surveillance of Guevara's daily routine, they also saw Guevara return regularly to the Downey residence.

Jurors appeared most swayed by testimony from several longtime neighbors of Guevara's mother, who said they rarely saw the councilwoman there. Jurors also said they discounted several of Guevara's witnesses, who said she lived in Huntington Park.

"We felt they weren't being honest about her pattern of living," said one juror, who asked not to be identified.

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