The guilty verdict in the United States of America versus Mark Ridley-Thomas trial is deeply troubling. We attended the trial. CD10 Voices for Empowerment saw the evidence. The prosecution we witnessed exposed the weakness of the government’s case. It laid bare for all willing to see a rush to judgment buttressed by shoddy investigative techniques, profoundly willful ignorance of County governance by federal government investigators and prosecutors, disrespect for the defendant and a prejudicially implicit bias that all too often adversely impacts African Americans within our criminal justice system.
The failure of the government to call a single County witness able to support the prosecution’s contention that Mark Ridley-Thomas or a single supervisor could “steer” contracts speaks to the power of prosecution by innuendo, repetition, and guilt by association. The investigation itself, including the unusual deference by prosecutors to accommodate the interests of the University of Southern California (USC) and Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso, the failed mayoral candidate, reinforces public suspicions that the case against Mark Ridley-Thomas was politically motivated.
The multi-million-dollar advertising campaign by Caruso and his allies in the Los Angeles Police Protective League to promote a “guilt by association” narrative actively sought to undermine the candidacy of Caruso’s opponent, Mayor Karen Bass. The City Council action to suspend Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas without pay in October 2021 in the wake of the public announcement of the indictment hampered his ability to immediately develop, organize and finance a robust legal defense. The Council decision was supported by former City Attorney Mike Feuer, himself under scrutiny by the same USAO for a wide-ranging scandal at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as well as Council member Kevin de Leon, further illustrating the self-serving motivations of Ridley-Thomas’ adversaries.
Mark Ridley-Thomas is planning an appeal. We encourage him to do so.
CD10 Voices for Empowerment is deeply grateful to Mark Ridley-Thomas and his family as well as his public supporters and Legal Defense Fund donors. They have made it possible to fight charges that most Black leaders who are targeted for unjust prosecutions are unable to contest. Ridley-Thomas was, after all, acquitted on 12 of the 19 charges filed against him, including the ones associated with his son’s admission to USC, his scholarship and practitioner professorship. While the total exoneration we had hoped for was not accomplished thus far, the proceeding exposed significant flaws in the case, a criminal justice system that overwhelmingly favors the government, and profound mainstream media bias. Far too often innocent defendants are forced to give in to the financial, emotional, and familial pressures associated with prosecution by the might and resources of the Federal government. It is much easier to accept a plea deal. The risks to careers, reputations, loving relationships of longstanding, friendships, personal finances and legacies posed by prosecution is too much to handle for most defendants wrongfully accused. In this instance, Mark Ridley-Thomas’ servant leadership was misrepresented, his constituents needlessly disenfranchised, his reputation tarnished, and his work diminished.
We STILL stand by Mark Ridley-Thomas and his decision to fight for his reputation to prove his innocence, particularly after witnessing the trial every single day.
At the conclusion of this proceeding, we are still left with doubts about the exercise and the selective use and abuse of prosecutorial power by the USAO and investigative objectivity of the FBI. If they can use their power and privilege to prosecute Mark Ridley-Thomas on the strength of imaginary “winks and nods” as they suggested in the government’s closing argument, interpretation of emojis, “optics,” selective interviews of witnesses that confirm pre-existing biases, incomplete review of relevant evidence, omission of salient facts, and perpetuation of falsehoods, who’s next?