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Former Lynwood councilmen’s convictions upheld

LOS ANGELES — A state appellate court panel upheld the convictions of two former Lynwood councilmen for misappropriating public funds.

The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal June 8 rejected the defense’s argument that the prosecution relied on invalid legal theories and that the trial court wrongly instructed jurors in the case of Louis Byrd and Fernando Pedroza.

“The given instructions were derived from settled case law,” Justice Lee Smalley Edmon said in a written opinion.

Byrd, now 83, and Pedroza, now 50, were each convicted in 2012 and sentenced to four years in prison.

Prosecutors said Byrd misappropriated $330,000 for his personal use and Pedroza misappropriated more than $160,000, including a $1,500 charge to a city credit card for a visit to a gentlemen’s club while on a sister city conference trip to Guadalajara, Mexico. Both were ordered to pay restitution to the city.

Pedroza’s attorney argued on appeal that a loophole that existed in state law until 2006 allowed his client to be paid for attending some of those meetings. He said Huntington Park once paid its city council members $1,950 per month for serving on a community development commission, while Compton council members received $1,000 per month for each of three commissions they serve on.

The two were on the City Council and Byrd was serving as mayor when they were charged in April 2007 along with former Councilman Arturo Reyes, who pleaded guilty in September 2008 to felony grand theft and was sentenced to five years probation.