Corruption trial of former L.A. deputy mayor is on hold after defense lawyer falls ill
A federal judge called Monday for a three-week delay in the corruption trial of former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, after learning that Chan’s main lawyer was still in the hospital after an unexpected surgery.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said he will seek to resume witness testimony March 27, giving time for Harland Braun, Chan’s lawyer, to recover from what has been described in court as an infection.
Chan, a onetime aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti and former head of the Department of Building and Safety, is accused of participating in a bribery and racketeering scheme led by former Councilmember Jose Huizar and involving downtown high-rise development projects. Braun, who has been leading the defense team, went to the hospital last week, prompting the cancellation of testimony Friday.
Braun’s abrupt absence has created a new atmosphere of uncertainty around the trial, which has been underway since Feb. 21.
Braun, 80, is a seasoned attorney who has represented many high-profile defendants, including actor Robert Blake, director Roman Polanski and Theodore J. Briseno, a former LAPD officer who was twice acquitted of criminal charges in the Rodney King beating case.
The other attorney on Chan’s defense team, Brendan Pratt, earned his law degree in 2021. Also seated at the defense table is Even Chan, the defendant’s daughter-in-law, who described herself as an assistant when approached by The Times.
Prosecutors accuse former L.A. Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan of shaking down developers as another federal trial opens in the sprawling City Hall corruption scandal.
Pratt told the court Monday that doctors had not determined the source of Braun’s infection. He did not say what type of surgery had been performed, describing it as a “half measure.” Pratt said he has been relying on Braun’s son for medical information on the veteran attorney, but also had also spoken with Braun directly.
“He sounded very weak, and expressed his concern that he does not know when he will be discharged from the hospital,” Pratt said.
“We still don’t have a diagnosis, do we?” the judge asked minutes later.
“No we don’t, your honor,” Pratt said.
Prosecutors have four witnesses left in the case. Jurors have heard from former Planning Commissioner David Ambroz, mayoral aide Kevin Keller and Richelle Rios, Huizar’s estranged wife, among others.
On Friday, the judge advised Pratt that he would need to familiarize himself with the exhibits in the case. The judge told the prosecution he would do everything in his power to “keep this trial on track.”
“I’m definitely not going to mistrial,” he said last week.
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