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The Judge's Sentence in the Mark Ridley-Thomas Case

By Vincent Harris

The guilty verdict in the United States of America versus Mark Ridley-Thomas trial is deeply troubling. We attended the trial and saw the evidence. The prosecution we witnessed exposed the weakness of the government’s case.  It laid bare for all to see a rush to judgment buttressed by shoddy investigative techniques, profoundly willful ignorance of County governance by government investigators and prosecutors, disrespect for the defendant and a prejudicially implicit bias that all too often adversely impacts African Americans within our criminal justice system.

The failure of the government to call a single County witness able to support the prosecution’s contention that MRT or a single supervisor could “steer” contracts speaks to the power of prosecution by innuendo, repetition, and guilt by association.  The investigation itself, including the unusual deference by prosecutors to accommodate the interests of the University of Southern California (USC) and Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso, the failed mayoral candidate, reinforces public suspicions that the case against Mark Ridley-Thomas was prompted by other motives

The City Council action to suspend Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas in October 2021 in the immediate aftermath of the public announcement of his indictment on Federal corruption charges hampered his ability to immediately develop, organize and finance a robust legal defense. The multi-million-dollar advertising campaign by Caruso and his allies in the Los Angeles Police Protective League to tie him to USC’s poor and entrepreneurial administrative practices reinforced longstanding stereotypes. Guilt by association imagery was designed to undermine the credibility of other Black politicians.

CD10 Voices for Empowerment is deeply grateful to MRT and his family as well as his public supporters and Legal Defense Fund donors for their willingness to pursue and finance the quest for total a complete exoneration. He was found not guilty on 12 of the 19 charges he faced, including all related to his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

While the total exoneration we had hoped for was not accomplished, the proceeding exposed significant flaws in the case, a criminal justice system that overwhelmingly favors the government, and profound media bias.   Far too often innocent defendants are forced to give in to the financial, emotional, and familial pressures associated with prosecution by the might and resources of the Federal government. It is easier to accept a plea deal. The risks to careers, reputations, loving relationships of longstanding, friendships, finances, and legacies posed by prosecution is too much to handle for most defendants wrongfully accused. In this instance, MRT’s servant leadership was misrepresented, his constituents needlessly disenfranchised, his reputation tarnished, and his work diminished.

We STILL stand by MRT and his decision to fight for his reputation to prove his innocence.

At the conclusion of this proceeding, we are still left with doubts about the exercise and abuse of prosecutorial discretion by the USAO and investigative objectivity of the FBI.  It they can use their power and privilege to prosecute MRT on the strength of imaginary winks, nods, interpretation of emojis, “optics,” selective interviews of witnesses that confirm implicit biases, incomplete review of relevant evidence, omission of salient facts, and perpetuation of falsehoods, who’s next?