LOS ANGELES – In a ruling on Friday, a judge denied former City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ request to have his convictions on federal bribery and conspiracy charges overturned. Defense lawyers argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s guilty verdicts, alleging prosecutorial misconduct and misstatements of the law during the trial.
Ridley-Thomas, 68, was found guilty on March 30 of conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud, and honest services wire fraud. These charges stem from his tenure on the county Board of Supervisors. Sentencing is scheduled for August 21 in downtown Los Angeles, and the former politician faces the prospect of serving years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, in a 17-page ruling, dismissed the defense’s arguments that there was no evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement between Ridley-Thomas and Marilyn Flynn, former head of the USC School of Social Work, who had pleaded guilty to a bribery charge.
Defense attorney Galia Z. Amram maintained that Ridley-Thomas did not perform any official acts on the Board of Supervisors that favored the expansion of a Telehealth contract with the county Department of Mental Health. Prosecutors claimed that this contract could have potentially generated millions of dollars in revenue for the social work school. Judge Fischer, in justifying her decision to reject the defense’s motion for acquittal, pointed out the “significant evidence” presented by the government during the trial.
This evidence included testimonies from USC employees, the government’s case agent, and discussions on the contracts in question, as well as statements and actions involving Ridley-Thomas and Flynn’s connection to benefits provided to Ridley-Thomas’ son, Sebastian. The denial of Ridley-Thomas’ bid for acquittal means that the convictions will stand, and the former councilman will face sentencing later this summer. The case has garnered significant attention due to the prominent roles held by the individuals involved and the allegations of corruption within the political landscape of Los Angeles.
In summary, Fischer found there was “not sufficient cumulative error to call for a new trial.”