LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A short hearing took place Monday in federal court in the bribery and corruption case of Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the ex-dean of the USC School of Social Work, Marilyn Flynn.
During the 10-minute hearing, in which the 67-year-old Ridley-Thomas and the 83-year-old Flynn appeared via Zoom, the judge heard a summary of the prosecution’s case and requested that both sides stipulate that a previously set December trial date be canceled.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth C. Pinkel told the court that her office has produced 35,000 pages of evidentiary material, with more to come. She said the prosecution’s case at trial would last about two weeks. The defense did not offer a time estimate.
The defendants were charged last month in a bombshell 20-count indictment alleging a secret deal whereby Ridley-Thomas — when he was a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors — agreed to steer county money to the university in return for admitting his son Sebastian Ridley-Thomas into graduate school with a full- tuition scholarship and a paid professorship.
Flynn allegedly arranged to funnel a $100,000 donation from Ridley- Thomas’ campaign funds through the university to a nonprofit to be operated by his son, a former member of the Assembly. The donation prompted an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that remains open, prosecutors said.
In exchange, the indictment alleges, Ridley-Thomas supported county contracts involving the School of Social Work, including lucrative deals to provide services to the county Department of Children and Family Services and Probation Department, as well as an amendment to a contract with the Department of Mental Health that would bring the school millions of dollars in new revenue.
The criminal activities occurred in 2017-18, the indictment alleges. In December 2017, the then 30-year-old Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas abruptly resigned from the California State Legislature. He claimed at the time it was for health reasons, but it was later revealed that he was facing an internal sexual harassment investigation.
He was then almost immediately hired by USC as a professor of social work and public policy, despite not having a graduate degree. However, USC administrators launched an investigation and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was then fired in July of 2018.
Prosecutors allege that as part of the bribery scheme, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Flynn took steps “to disguise, conceal, and cover up the bribes, kickbacks, and other benefits.”
Flynn was dean for 21 years. The indictment says USC “removed” her from the position around June 2018.
The Los Angeles City Council voted last month to suspend Ridley-Thomas from his post.
Both Ridley-Thomas and Flynn are charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery. The indictment also charges both defendants with two counts of “honest services” mail fraud and 15 counts of “honest services” wire fraud.
The conspiracy count alleged in the indictment carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison. Each bribery count carries a maximum possible sentence of 10 years. Each of the mail fraud and wire fraud charges carry a maximum of 20 years.