Thread Mark Ridley-Thomas trial

Ridley-Thomas’ felony convictions dictate his removal from L.A. City Council

Mark Ridley-Thomas, shown arriving at the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles in early March.
The City Charter calls for the removal of suspended L.A. City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas after he was convicted of several felony counts. Ridley-Thomas is shown arriving at the federal courthouse in early March.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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Veteran Los Angeles politician Mark Ridley-Thomas’ felony convictions bring new shock waves to a City Hall that had been settling into relative normalcy after months of upheaval.

For nearly a year and a half, Ridley-Thomas had been in a kind of limbo — suspended from the City Council but not permanently removed. But after five days of deliberation, jurors found Ridley-Thomas guilty of federal corruption charges on Thursday — an outcome that dictates his removal from the council, per the City Charter.

Ridley-Thomas’ ouster is a stunning coda to the career of a long-illustrious politician. It also means that the city’s 10th Council District will once again be without a voting representative, at least for the time being.

Veteran L.A. County politician Mark Ridley-Thomas is found guilty of federal corruption charges related to benefits his son received at USC.

March 30, 2023

If Ridley-Thomas had been acquitted, he would have returned to his seat at the completion of the trial, supplanting interim appointed Councilmember Heather Hutt.


But Hutt was appointed only to fill a “temporary vacancy” — a status that no longer applies since Ridley-Thomas’ conviction renders the vacancy no longer temporary.

Reappointing Hutt to the seat she’s held for the past six months will require a vote of the council, which is currently on its spring recess.

Council President Paul Krekorian called on his colleagues to do just that in a statement Thursday evening, saying constituents in the 10th District deserve to be represented “without further disruption and disenfranchisement.”

He also designated Hutt as a nonvoting caretaker for the seat in the meantime.

The council could also opt to hold a special election to fill the seat through the remainder of Ridley-Thomas’ term, which runs through December 2024.

Ridley-Thomas’ 2020 election to the City Council was a homecoming of sorts: He began his political career at City Hall, serving from 1991 to 2002.

On the same stomping grounds where he had once been a political rookie, Ridley-Thomas returned as a lion of local politics — a power broker who’d led county efforts on homelessness and was revered by many for the ways he’d empowered Black L.A.


The gravity of his fall weighed heavily Thursday at City Hall, with a kind of staggered sadness permeating corridor conversations and elevator small talk.

Along with the mistakes Ridley-Thomas had made, some spoke of the righteous fights he had waged over the years — and their own muddled feelings.

“I think this is the most complicated thing I’ve encountered thus far on the job,” said one council staffer who’d worked in the building only a few months.

Questioned by reporters, Mayor Karen Bass looked anguished as she discussed the verdict.

“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 a real impact on the city,” she said, noting their 40-year history.

The mayor dodged a question about whether the jury had made the right decision in convicting her longtime friend on bribery and conspiracy charges.

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Most of the council remained silent in public, though three members had issued statements by Thursday evening. Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson called the conviction “difficult news to consider or accept” and praised Ridley-Thomas’ leadership through the years.


Krekorian was “deeply saddened that a career of extraordinary public service and achievement has been brought to a close in this way,” he said.

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield said the guilty verdict “leaves no room for ambiguity,” adding that he was “disappointed and saddened by the reality that he is the third City Council colleague to either plead or be found guilty of corruption,” Blumenfield said.

Ridley-Thomas’ conviction — which stems from actions taken while he served on the County Board of Supervisors, not the City Council — follows that of two other recent members of the council, Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander.

Huizar pleaded guilty in January to charges of racketeering and tax evasion, admitting that he extorted at least $1.5 million in bribes from real estate developers.

Englander was convicted in a sprawling City Hall corruption case in 2020, admitting he schemed to prevent federal investigators from learning about cash and other freebies he received from a Southern California businessman.

Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.