Suspended L.A. City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas Convicted On Federal Bribery & Conspiracy Charges

Suspended Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was convicted today of federal bribery and conspiracy charges, along with mail and wire fraud, stemming from his time serving on the county Board of Supervisors and accommodations provided to his son by a then-USC dean.

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Despite his vehement denials of wrongdoing, the local political giant was found guilty on single counts of bribery and conspiracy, along with one count of honest services mail fraud and four counts of honest services wire fraud. Jurors, who reached their verdict on Day 5 of deliberations, acquitted him on 12 other fraud counts. U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer set sentencing for August 14. 

Prosecutors alleged that the longtime local politician, while serving as a county supervisor, “put his hand out” and accepted perks from USC to benefit his son, Sebastian. Federal prosecutors based their case on a long string of emails and letters to bolster allegations that Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of the USC School of Social Work, Marilyn Flynn, had a quid pro quo arrangement during 2017 and 2018 in which the then-dean arranged for Sebastian’s admission to USC, a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship in exchange for his father’s support for county proposals that would ostensibly shore up the school’s shoddy financial picture and save Flynn’s job.

Defense attorney Daralyn Durie countered that nothing Ridley-Thomas did was illegal, and a series of defense witnesses contended that the “paper trail” was not what it seemed. At the conclusion of her two-hour closing argument Thursday, Durie asked jurors to acquit the defendant, and “return this man to his home and his work and his community.”

The jury, however, was not moved.

Ridley-Thomas, also a former dean of USC’s School of Social Work, was suspended by the City Council in October 2021 following his indictment. He previously served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1991-2002, then was elected to the California Assembly and state Senate. He then was voted to the powerful county Board of Supervisors in 2008, where he served until 2020, and then returned to the City Council.

It’s the latest blow to a scandal-plagued council that saw its then-President Nury Martinez resign in October after backlash over a leaked audiotape on which she was heard making racist remarks about the child of another council member, Mike Bonin. Councilman Kevin de León has resisted calls to resign over the tape, and Councilman Gil Cedillo lost a bid for re-election last year.

In January, Former Councilman José Huizar pleaded guilty to federal racketeering conspiracy and tax-evasion charges, and ex-Councilman Mitch Englander was sentenced in January 2021 to 14 months in federal prison after an obstruction of a public corruption investigation into his acceptance of gifts – including $15,000 in cash – from a businessman.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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