Ridley-Thomas to remain free during appeal

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Former elected official Mark Ridley-Thomas will remain free while he appeals his conviction on federal corruption charges, according to court documents obtained Oct. 6.

U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who presided over Ridley-Thomas’ 16-day criminal trial in March, approved Ridley-Thomas’ motion for bail pending appeal in a two-page order issued late Oct. 5.

After he was found guilty of seven felony counts — bribery, conspiracy, four counts of honest services wire fraud, and one count of honest services mail fraud — Ridley-Thomas was sentenced in August to three years and six months in federal prison with a surrender date of Nov. 13.

Defense attorneys argued in their motion for bail that Ridley-Thomas met the criteria for being allowed to stay out of prison during appeals, and the prosecution did not object in a stipulation filed Oct. 5 in Los Angeles federal court.

“Provided defendant Mark Ridley-Thomas complies with the conditions of his release and the terms set forth by the parties in their stipulation, defendant may remain on bail for the duration of the appellate proceedings before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, including the duration of proceedings relating to any petition for en banc rehearing,” Fischer wrote in her order.

The appeal before the Ninth Circuit is expected to be heard sometime next year. Issues to be argued by the defense include the allegation that the prosecution’s dismissal of two Black women from the jury panel during the selection process was the result of racism, Ridley-Thomas’ attorneys said.

As part of the bail during appeal stipulation, Ridley-Thomas agreed not seek an extension of time beyond Jan. 25 to file his opening appellate brief, and the government said it would not seek an extension of time to file its answering brief beyond 60 days from the date the defendant files his opening brief.

The parties also agreed to request appellate argument before a three-judge panel at the earliest available date, the document states.

Ridley-Thomas was found guilty of participating in a scheme in which he received benefits from USC for himself and his son while he had a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. He was acquitted of a dozen other charges related to a scholarship and a professorship that his son, Sebastian, received from the university.

Attorneys for Ridley-Thomas have argued that prosecutorial misconduct, misstatements of the law and other issues during the trial ultimately deprived the longtime politician of his rights.

Marilyn Flynn, a former head of the USC School of Social Work, pleaded guilty to bribing Ridley-Thomas, and was sentenced to 18 months home confinement and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine.

In addition to 42 months of incarceration, Ridley-Thomas was ordered to serve three years on supervised release once he completes his prison time. He also must pay an assessment and fines of $30,700.

During his sentencing hearing, the former state legislator, city councilman and county supervisor denied he did anything illegal. He apologized to his family and constituents for causing the “perception that I deviated from proper conduct.” He said the actions he took that resulted in his conviction were “ill-advised, but not illegal.”

Ridley-Thomas served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1991 to 2002, then was a member of the Assembly and state Senate before being elected to the powerful county Board of Supervisors in 2008, serving until 2020, when he returned to the City Council.