Mark Ridley-Thomas had been a major player in the Los Angeles political scene. The former Los Angeles County Supervisor spearheaded several initiatives during his tenure. He has been convicted of federal bribery and conspiracy charges. He was also convicted of mail and wire fraud from his time serving on the county Board of Supervisors and accommodations provided to his son, who was by a then-University of Southern California dean.
Jurors reached their verdict on their fifth day of deliberations and acquitted him of 12 other fraud counts.
“The people that elected Mark Ridley-Thomas were entitled to honest services,” said Martin Estrada, United States Attorney to the Central District of California, in a press statement. “They were entitled to have him not act in a corrupt way. But instead of doing so, he engaged in political corruption, and that’s why he’s been convicted today.”
The charges against Ridley-Thomas, 68, stem from what prosecutors called a quid pro quo arrangement between Ridley-Thomas and a former head of the USC School of Social Work. Ridley-Thomas, who continues to deny any wrongdoing, was accused of steering county contracts toward the school in exchange for benefits provided to Ridley-Thomas’ son, former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
Ridley-Thomas’ sentencing is set for Aug. 14.
A veteran politician, Ridley-Thomas served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1991-2002, then in the state Assembly and state Senate before he was elected to the powerful county Board of Supervisors in 2008. He served in that post until 2020 when he returned to the City Council, CBS News reported.
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Many community leaders and fellow politicians noted the positive deeds he did for the city.
“For decades, Mark Ridley-Thomas has been a champion for our city, a civil rights activist, a thought leader, and a policy maker who made real impact on our city,” said Mayor Karen Bass in a statement. “I worked with Mark for more than 40 years to build a more just and equitable Angeles. So all I have to say is this is a sad day for Los Angeles.”
Community leaders recalled Ridley-Thomas’ help in developing the Empowerment Congress, which united residents of South L.A. in advocating for their interests. He was also lauded for his promotion of reforms at the Los Angeles Police Department. He also worked to get Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital reopened, which has closed after years of neglect.
Some people accused the justice system of being unfair to Ridley-Thomas.
Pastor William D. Smart Jr., president and chief executive of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, described the case as “a U.S. government railroad of another Black man,” The Los Angeles Times reported. Talk show host Tavis Smiley said in an editorial that Department of Justice’s “hunting season for Black folks is always open.”
In this Jun 1, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas casts the deciding vote for the Board of Supervisors 3-2 vote to join the city in its economic boycott of Arizona over its SB 1070 law targeting illegal immigrants in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)