- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The leader of the state Senate said Friday that a fellow Democratic lawmaker should resign or face suspension after he was indicted on multiple federal corruption charges.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he has the support of the Senate’s Democratic caucus in calling for Sen. Ron Calderon to resign or take a leave of absence after he was indicted on bribery, conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Calderon, D-Montebello, is charged with using his office to extract bribes from a hospital executive and undercover FBI agents who pretended to be involved in the film industry. Federal prosecutors said the amount was $100,000 in cash.

“Given the seriousness of charges that strike at the very heart of what it means to be a public official, Senator Calderon’s continued service is a cloud over all the important work that we must get done this year. It is in the best interests of the people and the Senate if he resigns. I call on him to do so,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a statement.

Mario Beltran, a spokesman for Calderon, said he had no immediate response. Calderon’s criminal attorney, Mark Geragos, has not returned repeated requests for comment.

If Calderon does not resign or take a leave of absence, the Senate will seek to suspend him, Steinberg said. He noted that the Senate Rules Committee already stripped Calderon of his committee assignments.

Steinberg said that while it is true that Calderon is innocent unless proven guilty, the Senate’s ethics code also governs senators’ behavior. But he said it would be difficult for the Senate’s ethics committee to conduct its own investigation while the federal prosecution proceeds because the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked the Senate not to call any witnesses in the case.

Steinberg was among three senators named in an earlier leaked FBI affidavit in the Calderon investigation. All three said they were told by federal prosecutors that they were not targets of the investigation, and none has been charged.

The indictment released Friday says Calderon was in contact with three senators as he attempted to influence legislation, listed only as senators A, B and C. It also refers to an unindicted co-conspirator, who remains unidentified.

The call for Calderon’s resignation contrasts with the Senate’s treatment of another Democratic lawmaker embroiled in legal trouble.

Sen. Roderick Wright, who represents a Los Angeles-area district, was found guilty last month of voter fraud and perjury. His sentencing is scheduled for May.

Steinberg recommended Wright be allowed to retain his seat until a judge enters a formal conviction.

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