Prosecutors recommend 6-year prison sentence for Mark Ridley-Thomas in corruption case

City News Service
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Prosecutors recommend 6-year prison sentence for Ridley-Thomas
Federal prosecutors are recommending a six-year prison sentence for former City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was convicted of bribery, fraud and conspiracy charges.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Federal prosecutors are recommending a six-year prison sentence for former City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was convicted of bribery, fraud and conspiracy charges for steering county contracts toward the USC School of Social Work in exchange for the secret funneling of a $100,000 contribution to an organization run by his son, according to court papers filed Monday.

"This was a shakedown," prosecutors wrote in a 32-page sentencing memorandum.

"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."

Defense attorneys are asking for a probationary sentence with home confinement and no prison time.

The 68-year-old Ridley-Thomas was convicted March 30 on single counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services mail fraud and four counts of honest services wire fraud, stemming from his time serving on the county Board of Supervisors. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 21 in downtown Los Angeles.

Prosecutors are asking that U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer impose a sentence of six years imprisonment, three years supervised release, and a fine of $30,000.

In defense papers also filed Monday, Ridley-Thomas' attorneys argue for a probationary sentence along the lines of the penalty handed to his co- defendant, Marilyn Flynn.

The Los Angeles City Council appointed Heather Hutt as councilwoman for the 10th District to fill out the remainder of former Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas' term.

Flynn, an 84-year-old former dean of the social work school at USC who pleaded guilty to bribing the politician, was sentenced last month to three years probation, including 18 months of home confinement, and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine.

Counsel for Ridley-Thomas are urging a term of probation, with "substantial" home confinement, community service, a financial penalty, "and any other punitive and restorative conditions that the Court deems fit is fair and reasonable," defense attorneys wrote.

"A just sentence must consider whether imposing a significantly different sentence from that imposed on Dean Flynn lends to the appearance of vindictiveness for proceeding to trial," the document states.

According to the prosecution's memo, Ridley-Thomas shook down Flynn, and in doing so made his demands known: "Help me and my son in exchange for Los Angeles County business."

Prosecutors say Flynn received the message loud and clear. "Aware that lucrative County contracts and an amendment to the existing Telehealth contract hung in the balance, Flynn worked tirelessly, for over a year, to deliver seemingly any benefit and perk at her disposal to please defendant and his son," according to the memo.

Ridley-Thomas has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. He did not testify in his own defense during his three-week trial, but his attorneys argued repeatedly that nothing he did amounted to a crime.