Richard Alarcon listens at a Los Angeles City Council meeting in 2011. A… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon's defense in his voter fraud and perjury case got underway Friday with a witness testifying that, despite prosecution claims to the contrary, Alarcon was living in the Panorama City house listed as his official residence.
John De La Rosa told the court that the veteran San Fernando politician moved into the rust-colored home at 14451 Nordhoff St. within 30 days of his election to the state Assembly in November 2006. Shortly after, Alarcon announced his intention to run for the 7th District City Council seat.
De La Rosa, Alarcon's cousin and a member of his staff, said he saw the lawmaker and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, there on several occasions when he stopped by the home.
"I saw him multiple times within the next year, year and a half," he said.
Another staff member, scheduler Nancy Hodges Jimenez, testified that she sometimes dropped off the councilman's schedule and other paperwork at the Nordhoff Street house. Her memory was fuzzy on exactly when and how often she did that.
Both told the court that they also attended family and special events at the house, including a baptism, a birthday party and a wedding. Under prosecution questioning, they both said they also saw Alarcon and his wife at another home — in Sun Valley.
The couple are facing 24 felony counts of perjury and voter fraud for allegedly claiming the Nordhoff Street house as their residence so that Richard Alarcon could run for the 7th District seat.
Prosecutors with the district attorney's Public Integrity Division say the Alarcons were actually living in a Sun Valley home, outside the district boundaries. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria, sister of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is presiding over a preliminary hearing to decide if there's enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Much of Friday's testimony centered on trash, toilets and children's toys, as defense attorney Richard Lasting attempted to establish that the Alarcons were living in the home but had moved out temporarily while the interior was being renovated.
Lasting showed De La Rosa photographs of two bathrooms being renovated and asked about how long the work took to complete. De La Rosa said he couldn't be sure but thought it was several weeks at least. The Nordhoff Street home received a new coat of exterior paint, new floors in the living room, fresh floors in the bathroom and some work in the kitchen, he testified.
Lasting also got De La Rosa to note a freshly scrubbed toilet in one bathroom, bringing a moment of levity to the courtroom.
"The parties stipulate it is Comet cleanser,'' Villar de Longoria said.
Work was disrupted in late October 2009 when a squatter was found to be living in the home, De La Rosa said. Alarcon's relative said he often helped his cousin out by picking up mail or taking out trash at the home.
He saw children's toys at the house, indicating the presence of the Alarcons' young daughter, born in 2008, De La Rosa testified. The defense is expected to resume questioning on Oct. 1.