Watch CBS News

Former L.A. county supervisor and city councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas sentenced to prison

Disgraced L.A. County supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sentenced to more than 3 years in prison
Disgraced L.A. County supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sentenced to more than 3 years in prison 00:50

Former Los Angeles County supervisor and city councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, convicted on corruption charges in March, was sentenced to three years and six months in prison on Monday.  

Ridley-Thomas was sentenced by United States District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who also ordered Ridley-Thomas to pay a $30,000 fine.

Ridley-Thomas, 68, was convicted on March 30 on one count each of conspiracy, bribery and mail fraud; and four counts of wire fraud. The violations occurred while Ridley-Thomas was serving on the county board of supervisors. The jury acquitted Ridley-Thomas of 12 counts of fraud. Ridley-Thomas had been serving on the L.A. City Council when he was convicted, though he had been suspended from the council. His conviction required his immediate expulsion from the city council.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 06: Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks onstage during the Children's Defense Fund of California 22nd Annual Beat The Odds Awards at Beverly Hills Hotel on December 6, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. Mark Davis/Getty Images for CDF

Prosecutors were reportedly seeking a term of six years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $30,000 fine.

Defense attorneys sought home confinement, community service and a fine, and requested incarceration of no more than two years and three months if necessary, according to court papers.

Thomas was convicted of voting to support county contracts that would have favored University of Southern California while accepting benefits for his son from the university.

The charges stemmed from what prosecutors called a quid pro quo arrangement between Ridley-Thomas and a former head of the USC School of Social Work, with the politician accused of steering county contracts toward the school in exchange for benefits provided to Ridley-Thomas' son, former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

"What was essential to this case was that $100,000 the defendant in this case tried to funnel through USC to get to his son's non-profit," said Martin Estrada, United States Attorney to the Central District of California. "On that fact pattern, the jury convicted him."

"This was a shakedown," prosecutors wrote in sentencing papers. "Not the kind in movies with bags of cash or threats of force. But the kind that is polite and pervasive. The kind that happens too often by sophisticated, powerful people. The kind to which society, sadly, has become so accustomed that it often goes unreported and rarely yields consequences for the offender but strikes a devastating blow to the integrity of our democratic system."

Prosecutors alleged that the longtime local politician, while serving as a county supervisor, "put his hand out" and accepted perks from USC to benefit his son, Sebastian. Federal prosecutors based their case on a long string of emails and letters to bolster allegations that Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of the USC School of Social Work, Marilyn Flynn, had a quid pro quo arrangement during 2017 and 2018 in which the then-dean arranged for Sebastian's admission to USC, a full-tuition scholarship and a paid professorship in exchange for his father's support for county proposals that would ostensibly shore up the school's shoddy financial picture and save Flynn's job.

Flynn, 84, admitted bribing Ridley-Thomas and was sentenced in July to three years' probation and was ordered to pay a $150,000 fine.

Mark Ridley-Thomas' sentencing was scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday.  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.