Ron Calderon announces leave from California state Senate

When the current term began, Ron Calderon had his assigned seat in the California Senate chambers moved from front-and center to a far corner, next to a vacant desk. He also had been stripped of all committee assignments.
When the current term began, Ron Calderon had his assigned seat in the California Senate chambers moved from front-and center to a far corner, next to a vacant desk. He also had been stripped of all committee assignments. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

State Sen. Ron Calderon, facing a raft of federal corruption charges, is taking a leave of absence from the seat he has held since 2006.

Calderon's office released the following statement on Sunday:

I will be seeking a voluntary leave of absence from my legislative duties in Sacramento. This is not a resignation since I still have my day in court. However, due to the nature and complexity of the charges, and the discovery materials that I will have to review, I expect this to be a lengthy period of absence continuing until the end of the session in August.

I will take this time to focus on fighting these charges.  I do not want to distract from the important work of the Senate and my colleagues on serious issues affecting my constituents and the people of California.

I am honored to serve the residents of the 30th Senate District and to work on issues that are important to the communities I was elected to represent. My staff in Sacramento and in my district will continue to provide constituent services and assistance on any state or legislative matters.

The announcement comes one day before the deadline given to him by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who said Calderon must either resign from office or take a leave of absence. Had he not left on his own terms, Calderon could have faced expulsion by his Senate colleagues.

Steinberg issued a brief statement Sunday night that said: "Today, Senator Calderon requested an indefinite leave of absence from his legislative duties. I have accepted his request."

Calderon's decision caps a week that began with his appearance in a downtown federal courthouse, where he pleaded not guilty to 24 counts of fraud, bribery and money laundering. He was released on a $50,000 bond signed by his wife.
  
The Montebello Democrat is accused of accepting $100,000 in cash bribes as well as trips on private planes, dinners at gourmet restaurants and rounds of golf at high-end resorts. Calderon allegedly accepted bribes from former hospital executive Michael Drobot in exchange for protecting legislation that allowed Drobot to engage in what prosecutors called the state's largest insurance fraud case. 
 
Separately, an undercover FBI agent posed as a film studio executive and cultivated a relationship with Calderon. The agent allegedly bribed the senator in exchange for a bill that would have provided more film tax incentives. 
 
Speaking to reporters last week, Calderon's attorney Mark Geragos said, "I would just ask everyone to take a deep breath before they start drawing conclusions."
 
The state senator has a trial date for April 22.

Calderon follows in the footsteps of Sen. Rod Wright (D-Inglewood), who took a leave of absence last week in the wake of his conviction on voter fraud and perjury. Wright was found guilty of eight felonies and is expected to be sentenced in May. Senate Democrats blocked a move by Republicans to expel the Democrat – something that hasn’t happened to a state senator since 1905. Both men will continue to receive their salaries while on leave. 

Wright, who is appealing his conviction, is scheduled to be sentenced in mid-May. If his appeal is denied and he is sentenced, he is expected to resign.

Should both Wright and Calderon eventually resign, Democrats could temporarily lose their super-majority in the state senate.

Also under indictment is Calderon's brother Tom, a former Assemblyman. He has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of money laundering.​

This story has been updated.

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