Capitol Alert

Gov. Jerry Brown pardons former state senator convicted of perjury, voting fraud

Gov. Jerry Brown has pardoned a former state senator who was convicted of felony perjury and voting fraud in 2014.

Former Sen. Rod Wright was among more than 100 people who received clemency from Brown on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. The group also includes a man whose home was destroyed in the Camp Fire and several people at risk of deportation.

“I’m elated,” Wright said when reached by phone. “It truly is a day of Thanksgiving for me.”

Wright served just 71 minutes in jail for his conviction for living at a different address than the one he used on his voter registration and candidacy papers.

Wright, a Democrat from Los Angeles County, resigned his Senate seat in 2014 over the conviction but has said he was wrongly prosecuted under an ambiguous legal standard for determining a lawmaker’s primary residence.

Earlier this year, Brown and the Legislature approved a change to that standard. Going forward, the new law will make it easier for California lawmakers to live outside their districts.

Brown also pardoned Wright for a 1972 felony conviction he received at age 19 for taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent.

Wright said since his conviction he has worked hard to serve his community, including doing community service to help formerly incarcerated people re-enter their communities. He also teaches as an adjunct professor at UC Davis.

Former state Sen. Bill Emmerson, a Republican from Southern California, has testified in support of Wright and praised Brown’s decision.

“I was a colleague in the state senate with Sen. Wright and I found him to be one of the hardest working and dedicated public servants,” Emmerson said. “I think the governor did the right thing.”

Brown also granted clemency to three refugees from Vietnam brought to the U.S. as children who are facing possible deportation. Brown’s decision could strengthen their legal cases to stay in the country.

Brown pardoned Tung Thanh Nguyen for murder and robbery convictions in the 90s. Brown said Nguyen, who came to the U.S. at 15, has since served his time and led an “honest and upright life.” Brown said Nguyen risked his life to protect civilians during a prison riot and has become a juvenile justice advocate.

Brown also pardoned Hai Trong Nguyen, who was brought to the U.S. at age 2, for armed robbery crimes. Brown said he has since become a law-abiding citizen and volunteered his time to help with anti-recidivism efforts.

Brown also pardoned Truong Quang Ly, who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after a passenger in a car he was driving when he was 18 shot and killed another driver. Since being released from prison, Ly has advocated for criminal justice reform and started seven of his own restaurants. 

“Gov. Brown has helped prevent the separation of families by pardoning deserving Southeast Asian Americans,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, who leads the Legislature’s Asian Pacific Islander caucus. “They were part of the largest refugee resettlement in our country’s history and were placed in poverty-ridden neighborhoods with significant crime rates… Today, they have fulfilled their sentences and are now working to make positive contributions to their communities.”