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Prosecutors say no objection Ridley-Thomas remaining free


Judge must weigh in on matter

Federal prosecutors said they have no objection to former Los Angeles County elected official Mark Ridley-Thomas’ bid to remain free while he appeals his conviction on federal corruption charges–but the judge must also weigh-in.

After he was found guilty of seven felony counts–bribery, conspiracy, four counts of honest services wire fraud, and one count of honest services mail fraud–Ridley-Thomas was sentenced in August to three years and six months in federal prison with a surrender date of Nov. 13.

Defense attorneys argued in a motion for bail pending appeal filed on Oct. 2 that Ridley-Thomas meets the criteria for being allowed to stay out of prison during appeals.

Prosecutors wrote in a stipulation filed on Oct. 5 in Los Angeles federal court that in order to expedite the appellate process and obtain a final resolution of the case in a timely manner, they would not object.

U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who presided over Ridley-Thomas’ 16-day criminal trial in March, must first sign off on the stipulation before it goes into effect. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30, but the judge could grant bail pending appeal before that date.

Alyssa D. Bell, appellate counsel for Ridley-Thomas, said in a statement that the government’s decision not to fight the motion “is a positive step forward. It is a good day for Dr. Ridley-Thomas and means that, pending approval by Judge Dale S. Fischer, he will be on bail for the entire time that his appeal is pending before the Ninth Circuit.’’

The prosecution’s stipulation “further underscores that the issues raised in the defense’s motion present substantial questions and are at least debatable, and should be seen as an acknowledgement of the strength of his upcoming appeal,’’ Bell added.

Among the issues expected to be presented at appeal before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals include the allegation that prosecutors’ dismissal of two Black women from the jury panel took place on racial grounds during jury selection, Bell said. Prosecutors said in their papers that they agree Ridley-Thomas is not likely to flee and does not pose a danger to the safety of any other person in the community if he remains free during appeals.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also indicated that defense attorneys have met another burden by bringing up arguments that are at least debatable. Also, the government said it does not allege that the bail motion is for the purpose of delay.

As part of the stipulation, defense attorneys agree that Ridley-Thomas shall not seek an extension of time beyond Jan. 25 to file his opening appellate brief, and the government shall not seek an extension of time to file its answering brief beyond 60 days from the date the defendant files his opening brief.

The parties also agree to request appellate argument at the earliest available date, the document states. It is expected to be many months before the defense files its appellate brief to the 9th Circuit.