Former Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas may face 6 years in prison in a bribery case, as suggested by federal prosecutors.
On March 30, Ridley-Thomas was found guilty of one count of conspiracy, one count of bribery, one count of honest services mail fraud, and four counts of honest services wire fraud.
“This was a shakedown,” prosecutors wrote in a 32-page memo. “Not the kind in movies with bags of cash or threats of force. But the kind that is polite and pervasive. The kind that happens too often by sophisticated, powerful people. The kind to which society, sadly, has become so accustomed that it often goes unreported and rarely yields consequences for the offender but strikes a devastating blow to the integrity of our democratic system.”
The defendant, Ridley-Thomas, seeks at-home probation with no prison time served.
The charges could have amounted to 20 years in federal prison for each fraud count, 10 years for the bribery charge, and another five for the conspiracy charge, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
The charges stem from a scheme occurring when Ridley-Thomas served on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in 2018. In the case, Ridley-Thomas was accused of voting in favor of an amendment for a Telehealth contract with the Department of Mental Health at USC, in exchange for his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, being hired at the USC School of Social Work.
In September 2022, former USC Dean of social work Marilyn Louise Flynn, 84, agreed to plead guilty to charges connected to the Ridley-Thomas case. Flynn’s guilty plea was for a federal charge that she bribed Ridley-Thomas by funneling $100,000 he provided from his campaign account to the United Ways of Southern California organization.
The investigation found that the $100,000 payment was processed in May 2018, with Flynn saying she met with Ridley-Thomas to discuss his vote in favor of the amended Telehealth contract, or the “master contract stuff,” as it was referred to in conversations.
In September 2022, the city council appointed Heather Hutt to represent the 10th district until there was further clarity on Ridley-Thomas’ case. Days after Ridley-Thomas’ conviction, Hutt was voted to serve out the remainder of the term.
The appointment of Hutt did not go without opposition, but Council President Paul Krekorian pointed to the 2022 resignation of Nury Martinez, which left the city’s 4th district without council representation for more than nine months.
Ridley-Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday, August 14.
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