By Ray Richardson
LOS ANGELES – Attorneys for City Councilman Curren Price have filed a demurrer challenging the legitimacy of the charges against the veteren elected official.
Price, who is facing 10 felony counts of embezzlement, perjury and conflicts of interest, had his arraignment date pushed back a second time Oct. 13 and rescheduled for Dec. 15 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
By that date, lawyers on both sides hope to have a ruling on whether the District Attorney’s Office has “sufficient evidence” to proceed with a case against the 72 year-old council member.
“The demurrer demonstrates the many ways in which the charges against Councilmember Price are legally deficient,” Price’s attorney Michael V. Schafler, a partner with the law firm Cohen Williams LLP, said in a statement.
When asked about Price’s arraignment being rescheduled, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said the move was made “over the prosecution’s objection.” The spokesperson offered no further comment.
“There is no allegation that Councilmember Price acted willfully or knowingly with respect to the conflict of interest or financial disclosure charges, which are necessary elements,” Schafler added. “Secondly, the embezzlement charges fail to state a cognizable offense and are time-barred if brought under any other pertinent statue.”
A demurrer is a written response to a complaint filed in a lawsuit or criminal charges. Defendants can request a demurrer to essentially plead for a dismissal. Even if the facts alleged in the complaint are found to be true, a successful demurrer ruling means prosecutors have limited or no legal basis to pursue a case.
Price is counting on the demurrer to convince a judge to dismiss the case against him or remove some of the felony counts. Based on the history of demurrer filings, cases are rarely dismissed but the ruling often gives defendants more leverage in fighting the legality of the charges.
“Even if our demurrer, which is based only on the face of the complaint, is denied, the problems with the prosecution’s case are undeniable,” Schafler said. “They will only become clearer once the prosecution is required to put forth evidence of probable cause that Councilmember Price is guilty of a crime. We anticipate the prosecution will be unable to meet that burden, and we believe that this case never should have been filed.”
District Attorney George Gascon announced the charges against Price on June 13. The charges led Price to step down from his position as City Council president pro tem and all of his committee assignments. Price was not suspended by the City Council, but stayed away from chamber meetings for two months before returning in August.
“Councilmember Price continues to be very focused on serving his district,” said Angelina Valencia, Price’s communications director. “He’s firmly committed to remain a public servant. His community knows his intentions.”
Price has represented the Ninth District since 2013. He has maintained his innocence on all 10 of the felony counts and has expressed a strong desire on numerous occasions to clear his name in court.
“We are looking forward to engaging with the D.A. in the coming weeks, and we are grateful that the court has given us the time to do so,” Price said in a statement after his first court appearance in July.
The District Attorney’s Office charged Price with five counts of embezzlement of government funds, three counts of perjury and two counts of conflict of interest. Deputy District Attorney Casey Higgins is the primary prosecutor in the case.
The charge in the complaint drawing the most scrutiny stems from Price’s alleged involvement in business dealings with his wife, Del Richardson, who runs a real estate development company in Los Angeles.
According to the complaint, Richardson allegedly received payments totaling more than $150,000 between 2019 and 2021 from developers who reportedly benefited from approval votes cast by Price at City Council meetings. The City Charter prohibits council members from having a financial interest in any projects that come before the City Council.
The complaint claims that Price failed to list the money his wife received on government disclosure forms.
Richardson is also at the center of another matter in the complaint. Price is accused of receiving approximately $33,800 in medical coverage for Richardson before they were legally married. At the time of the allegations, the complaint indicates that Price was still married to his first wife, Lynn Suzette Price.
Price and Richardson reportedly were married in 2018. After the complaint revealed the medical coverage issue, Price said he was working to resolve the matter, including clarifying the actual date when he and his first wife finalized their divorce.
“It’s very unfortunate that all of this has placed a cloud over Councilmember Price,” Valencia said. “He’s very confident the truth will come out when the evidence is presented.”
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at email@example.com.