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Ridley-Thomas loses bid to have conviction tossed


Sentencing scheduled for Aug. 21

A judge has denied former City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ bid to have his convictions on federal bribery and conspiracy charges vacated after defense lawyers argued there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s guilty verdicts.

Attorneys for Ridley-Thomas alleged during an hours-long hearing on June 26 that prosecutorial misconduct, misstatements of the law and other issues during the longtime Los Angeles politician’s trial ultimately deprived him of his rights.

The 68-year-old Ridley-Thomas is facing the prospect of years in prison after being convicted March 30 on single counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud and four counts of honest services wire fraud, stemming from his time serving on the county Board of Supervisors. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 21 in downtown Los Angeles.

In her 17-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer rejected defense arguments that there was no evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement between the politician and Marilyn Flynn, a former head of the USC School of Social Work, who pleaded guilty to a bribery charge.

Defense attorney Galia Z. Amram insisted there was no showing that Ridley-Thomas performed “an official act” while on the Board of Supervisors in favor of an expansion of a Telehealth contract with the county Department of Mental Health that prosecutors claim could have brought the social work school potentially millions of dollars in new revenue.

However, Fischer wrote as part of her justification for rejecting the defense motion for acquittal that “significant evidence” was presented by the government at trial through witnesses–primarily USC employees and the government’s case agent–regarding the contracts at issue and the defendant and Flynn’s “statements and actions, and USC’s perspective on providing certain benefits” to Ridley-Thomas’ son, Sebastian.

According to the minutes of the Board of Supervisors on July 18, 2018, Ridley-Thomas “voted to approve a renewed Telehealth contract to USC on the expanded terms requested by Flynn,” Fischer wrote.

Despite Amram’s insistence that there was no official act taken by the then-supervisor, the meeting’s minutes “show that the defendant voted ‘aye’ on the Telehealth extension,” the judge stated. Additionally, the judge found “ample evidence” to support the jury’s finding that Flynn provided benefits to Ridley-Thomas in exchange for his vote.

As part of her denial of Ridley-Thomas’ motion for a new trial, the judge discussed the defense theory that FBI Special Agent Brian Adkins, the government’s chief case investigator, made false statements to the jury during three days on the stand touching on nearly every factual issue presented.

Fischer explained that a conviction can be reversed on the conditions that the prosecution knowingly presented false evidence or testimony at trial and there is a reasonable likelihood that the false evidence or testimony could have affected the judgment of the jury. The judge determined there was no evidence that Adkins intended to mislead the jury.