LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - Long time Los Angeles County and City leader, Mark Ridley-Thomas has been indicted on federal corruption charges along with a former dean at USC's School of Social Work.
Federal prosecutors, and sources, claim that while Ridley-Thomas was on the LA County Board of Supervisors, he gave $100,000 donation to then USC Dean of Social Work Marilyn Flynn's department, who then hired Ridley-Thomas's son Sebastian.
Soon after that, prosecutors allege that Ridley-Thomas sent millions of dollars worth of county contracts to USC.
Just before the 2018 new year, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas suddenly resigned from his job as state assemblyman, citing unspecified health problems that it would take while to recover from. However, just a few months later, he was hired by USC to be a professor of social work and public policy.
"A federal indictment is very serious," said Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levinson.
Levinson added that if the charges are proven, Ridley-Thomas and Flynn Face stiff sentences.
"Has there been something percolating for a long time about USC and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and this kind of strange relationship, and how Sebastian Ridley-Thomas left the assembly; he gets this kind of golden-parachute, plum job at USC, nobody's really sure why and then USC gets a lot of benefits when Mark Ridley-Thomas is member of the Board of Supervisors? Yes. Did anybody ever put those two things together to form a criminal indictment? Not until today."
Professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University Fernando Guerra said the charges could rock public trust in our institutions.
"You have a very significant individual who is well known, expected to run for mayor, one of the icons of the political establishment and then you have USC, another iconic institution and in higher education. So, we don't expect that," he said.
Officials at USC released a statement stating, "When the university learned in the summer of 2018 about the $100,000 payment referenced in the indictment, the university disclosed the issue to the U.S. Attorney's Office and has fully cooperated ever since. Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by the university since September 2018. We will continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office and must limit comments because this is a pending criminal matter."
Ridley-Thomas's attorney, Michael J. Proctor, released a statement Thursday afternoon saying,
"Mark Ridley-Thomas was shocked by the federal allegations leveled against him, and with good reason. They are wrong, and we look forward to disproving them. At no point in his career as an elected official -- not as a member of the City Council, the State Legislature, or the Board of Supervisors -- has he abused his position for personal gain.Mark Ridley-Thomas has been in public service for thirty years, and his actions have been open to public scrutiny for a full three decades. Over those thirty years, he has demonstrated the quality of his character. We ask you to allow due process to take its course."
President of LA City Council Nury Martinez released a statement regarding the indictment.
"I'm disappointed in the news that has come out this afternoon of federal bribery charges against Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas. While the alleged crimes took place while Mr. Ridley-Thomas say on the Board of Supervisors, these charges are serious and the Council will need to take appropriate action," she said.
Attorney's representing former USC Dean Flynn, released a statement on their client's behalf stating, "Marilyn Flynn has devoted her entire professional life to the field of social work. She has spent over 45 years in academia and has worked tirelessly for the improvement and betterment of the social welfare network in Los Angeles and around the country. Ms. Flynn has not committed any crime and we believe that the evidence in this case will ultimately support this conclusion."
Meanwhile, fellow City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is also running for Mayor of LA, called for Ridley-Thomas' resignation.
Busciano tweeted, "I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted by the Federal bribery charges against Mark Ridley-Thomas. These charges tarnish the reputation of the entire LA City Council, and because of that, Ridley-Thomas should immediately step down from his position."
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, also weighed in on the federal charges, tweeting, "This is why a Public Corruption Unit must exist outside of the influence of the @LACountyBOS."
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