Price arraignment postponed again until January

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — More than six months after he was accused of embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest City Councilman Curren Price is still waiting to be formally arraigned on the charges.

His arraignment was postponed again Dec. 15. His next court date is Jan. 8 when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Richman is expected to hear Price’s attorneys present a challenge to the 10-count indictment.

Richman said Dec. 15 that he has not had a chance to review court filings involving the defense’s legal challenge before the arraignment goes forward.

Defense attorneys contend that the five counts of grand theft by embezzlement against Price are “barred by the statute of limitations.”

The defense also contends that the allegations in the complaint are “insufficient to allege a crime” involving the two conflict-of-interest charges, and that the facts stated in the complaint involving the three perjury charges “do not constitute a public offense.”

The prosecution has countered that the defense’s challenge should be denied.

Deputy District Attorney Casey Higgins wrote in his response that the defense’s challenge is “unsupported by the law and meritless.”

He added that the prosecution is not barred by the statute of limitations because “the prosecution was initially commenced on June 13, 2023, which was within four years after the completion of the offenses” involving five of the challenged charges.

The case was filed against Price in June, with his arraignment being postponed at four court hearings since then. Price has maintained his innocence and is free on his own recognizance.

He is charged with voting on projects involving developers tied to his wife’s consulting firm, then failing to report the connections.

Price — who turned 73 Dec. 16 — has represented the Ninth District, which includes most of South Los Angeles and Exposition Park, since 2013. He previously served in the state Assembly, the state Senate and the Inglewood City Council.

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.

After his initial court appearance in July, Price issued a statement saying, “We are looking forward to engaging with the D.A. 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 D.A.’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.”

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.

He wasn;t seen at City Hall until Aug. 8, entering the council’s chambers with a business-as-usual approach and with little to no disruption from those in attendance.

During the public comment period that day, a few members of the public openly criticized Price’s return, mostly saying he should not be voting at all.

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

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.

Former City Council President Nury Martinez resigned last year after being caught on tape in a racially charged conversation with two other council members and a county labor official, discussing the council’s redistricting process.

Price is serving his last term on the council due to the city’s term limits rules.