Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife are facing 24 felony counts of perjury… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)
For nearly nine months in 2009, Los Angeles County district attorney's investigator David Babcock showed up regularly at the Panorama City home that Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon claimed as his official residence and, except for one occasion, he never saw anyone there.
Based on his surveillance, Babcock told a courtroom Friday at the start of the councilman's preliminary hearing, he concluded that Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, were not living at 14451 Nordhoff St.
The house "was not occupied," Babcock said, adding that he also reviewed utility records and interviewed neighbors and postal employees.
Alarcon and his wife are facing 24 felony counts of perjury and voter fraud for claiming the Nordhoff Street house as their official residence on voter, driving and candidacy documents so that he could run for the 7th District council seat. Prosecutor Jennifer Lentz Snyder says they were actually living in a Sun Valley home, outside the district boundaries.
Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria will decide if there is enough evidence to send the case to trial. Friday's testimony was for the most part a tedious recitation of Babcock's surveillance; much of the same information came out in an earlier grand jury indictment.
Babcock testified that he regularly visited the Nordhoff house between April 20, 2009, and Jan. 12, 2010, when search warrants were served at both the Panorama City and Sun Valley houses. He said he never saw people or vehicles at the Nordhoff house, the yard was unkempt and trash bins were never taken out.
Defense attorneys suggested that Babcock may have missed times when Alarcon was at the Nordhoff house because of the councilman's irregular schedule. They also got Babcock to acknowledge that newspapers were removed regularly and that he sometimes saw a light on in a utility room.
The selection of Villar de Longoria triggered the biggest buzz of the day among court watchers. The judge is the sister of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a City Hall ally of Alarcon.
Lentz Synder said she had no qualms about a potential conflict of interest. "Both sides can object if they think the judge can't be fair and impartial," she said. "Nobody did."
The preliminary hearing is expected to last about eight days.