Accused councilman makes first court appearance

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — City Councilman Curren Price is scheduled to make his next court appearance Aug. 28 at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse after his arraignment on criminal charges was postponed July 13.

Price made his first court appearance regarding criminal charges of theft by embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest for allegedly voting on projects involving developers tied to his wife’s consulting firm, then failing to report the connections.

Superior Court Judge Kimberley Baker Guillemet allowed the 72-year-old councilman to remain free on his own recognizance, but granted Deputy District Attorney Casey Higgins’ request for two conditions requiring that Price be fingerprinted and booked and that he announce any conflicts of interest on any contracts or agreements before the City Council and immediately recuse himself from voting on those issues.

The criminal complaint alleges that Price effectively embezzled money between 2013 and 2017 by having the city cover roughly $33,800 in medical premiums for Del Richardson, to whom he claimed to be married, although he was still married at the time to Lynn Suzette Price.

Price — who has maintained his innocence — has represented the Ninth District, which includes most of South Los Angeles and Exposition Park, since 2013. He previously served in the state Assembly and state Senate.

Following the July 13 court hearing, Price issued a statement saying, “We are looking forward to engaging with the DA in the coming weeks and we are grateful that the court has given us time to do so. I want to thank my constituents and the entire city of Los Angeles for the outpouring of support I have received and I look forward to continuing to do the people’s business.”

Price’s statement went on to say, “As we said when the charges were brought, we believe that the charges filed by the DA’s office are completely unwarranted and that the facts will bear this out. I have always conducted myself, in and out of the public eye, with integrity and professionalism.”

The councilman was charged June 13 with five counts of grand theft by embezzlement, three counts of perjury and two counts of conflict of interest, according to the criminal complaint.

Price sent a letter that afternoon to Council President Paul Krekorian announcing his decision to step down as council president pro tem, and surrendering all of his committee assignments.

“While I navigate through the judicial system to defend my name against unwarranted charges filed against me, the last thing I want to do is be a distraction to the people’s business,” Price wrote in the letter, first obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Krekorian introduced a motion to suspend Price a day after the criminal case was filed. But the Los Angeles City Council’s Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee subsequently voted to defer a recommendation regarding the possible suspension of Price until its Aug. 25 meeting.

Price issued a statement shortly after the committee meeting, saying he was pleased that the committee delayed its vote as he has “not yet had the opportunity to answer the unwarranted charges” against him.

“I hope that the committee, and the full council, will extend the same presumption of innocence that the law extends to me, and I look forward to proving my innocence,” Price said in a statement.

If convicted, Price could face a sentence ranging from probation to roughly eight to 10 years behind bars, the prosecutor said outside court.

Price is the latest Los Angeles city official to fall into legal or political turmoil. Former council members Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander have both pleaded guilty to federal charges in recent years, while Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was convicted earlier this year of federal charges for trading votes during his time on the county Board of Supervisors in exchange for benefits provided by USC to his son.

He is awaiting sentencing next month.

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