Watch CBS News

Mark Ridley-Thomas convicted on federal bribery, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud charges

Mark Ridley-Thomas convicted of federal bribery, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud charges
Mark Ridley-Thomas convicted of federal bribery, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud charges 03:05
Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Nov. 3, 2020 Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Suspended Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas has been convicted of federal bribery and conspiracy charges, along with mail and wire fraud, stemming from his time serving on the county Board of Supervisors and accommodations provided to his son by a then-USC dean.

He was convicted on single counts of bribery and conspiracy, along with one count of honest services mail fraud and four counts of honest services wire fraud. Jurors, who reached their verdict on their fifth day of deliberations, 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. "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 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," Estrada said. "On that fact pattern, the jury convicted him."

U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer set sentencing for Aug. 14. Ridley-Thomas, 68, has been suspended from the City Council since the indictment was announced.

Ridley-Thomas, of South Los Angeles, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. He did not testify in his own defense, but his attorneys argued throughout the trial that nothing he did amounted to a crime.

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.

He was suspended from the City Council following the October 2021 federal indictment that also named Flynn as co-defendant.

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

"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. "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."

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.