A prominent California Democrat who formerly served as the supervisor of Los Angeles County and on the city council will serve more than three years in federal prison for corruption.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former California state senator and assemblyman, was sentenced to 42 months in prison for a scheme in which his son was paid by the University of Southern California in exchange for him voting to award the school favorable city contracts.
Prosecutors described the scheme as a “shakedown” in which the local politician intended for his son Sebastian Ridley-Thomas to get up to $100,000 poured into his non-profit, according to CBS News.
Marilyn Flynn, the former dean of the USC School of Social Work, had admitted to bribing the councilman and was sentenced to three years probation and a $150,000 fine in July.
Ridley-Thomas, 68, was found guilty by a jury in March of conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud.
He was found not guilty on 12 other counts of fraud.
Ridley-Thomas was sentenced to more than three years in jail as well as a $30,000 fine by U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer.
“There is simply no justification for monetizing a public office,” Fischer said after the sentence was handed down.
The prosecution had requested that Fischer serve six years in jail and three years on supervised release.
Ridley-Thomas’ attorneys had requested house arrest, community service, and a fine.
Martin Estrada, United States Attorney for the Central District of California, stated that the jury’s decision to convict was an easy one.
“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.”
While arguing for a hefty sentence, the prosecution described Ridley-Thomas’ offenses as a plot that damaged public trust in its institutions.
The former councilman had participated in crimes that were not “the kind in movies with bags of cash or threats of force,” the Justice Department said.
The federal government claimed that Ridley-Thomas committed crimes that happen “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.”
During his trial, Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the Los Angeles City Council.
He was expelled after his conviction in the spring.
Ridley Thomas was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1991, and then to the state assembly from 2002 to 2008.
Following two years in the state Senate, he returned to city government.