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Former L.A City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas Seeks New Trial, Alleges Prosecutorial Errors

  • PublishedMay 20, 2023

Los Angeles, CA – Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former Los Angeles City Councilman convicted on bribery and fraud charges, is now seeking a new trial, citing prosecutorial misconduct and misleading testimony. Ridley-Thomas alleges that senior FBI agent Brian Adkins provided misleading statements regarding the School of Social Work for TeleHealth contract, which may have influenced the jury’s decision. In addition, his lawyers argue that the prosecution failed to provide sufficient evidence for the crimes on which Ridley-Thomas was convicted, requesting an outright acquittal.

Ridley-Thomas’s attorney’s filed two motions, highlighting instances of misconduct, improper jury instructions, and misstatements made during the high-profile trial. They contend that these factors warrant a fresh examination of the case and a reconsideration of the verdict.

A hearing is scheduled for June 26 to address the appeal.

The 68-year-old former Los Angeles politician, known for his lengthy tenure and influential role as a member of L.A. County’s powerful Board of Supervisors, now faces the possibility of decades in prison following his conviction in March on federal corruption charges. The charges stemmed from his alleged involvement in securing special benefits for his son from the University of Southern California (USC) while supporting a contract sought by the university.

According to prosecutors, Ridley-Thomas used his position to facilitate favorable arrangements for his son, including admission to USC’s School of Social Work for a dual master’s degree, a full-tuition scholarship, a paid professorship, and the funneling of $100,000 in campaign funds through the university to his son’s nonprofit organization, called Policy, Research & Practice Initiative.

In return, Ridley-Thomas supported lucrative contracts involving USC’s School of Social Work, including agreements with the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Mental Health, which had the potential to generate substantial revenue for the school.

Prosecutors argue that the $100,000 payment was concealed by routing it through USC, creating the appearance that the university was endorsing Ridley-Thomas’s son’s nonprofit organization and obscuring the true source of the funds.

After five days of deliberation, the jury found Ridley-Thomas guilty on seven out of 19 counts, including conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud, and four counts of honest services wire fraud. The verdict marked a dramatic downfall for Ridley-Thomas, who had previously been regarded as a champion of racial justice and civil rights.

Ridley-Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced on August 21, and the outcome of his appeal will determine whether a new trial is granted.

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