LA Focus: MRT Appellate Team Files Timely Letter in Response to Recent US Supreme Court Ruling

LA Focus: MRT Appellate Team Files Timely Letter in Response to Recent US Supreme Court Ruling
Alyssa D. Bell, Esq.

By Vincent M. Harris, Contributor

In the case of United States v. Mark Ridley-Thomas, MRT’s appellate team demonstrated a swift display of legal competence by filing what’s known as a Notice of Supplemental Authority pursuant to Rule 28(j) re: Snyder v. United States, No. 23-108.  This US Supreme Court ruling (Snyder Decision) was good news for MRT’s arguments that the Central District of the United States Attorneys Office abused its prosecutorial discretion by misapplying the law and criminalizing actions that did not deserve to be. This is often described as an abuse of prosecutorial power at its worst and a governmental overreach at its best.

US Supreme Court observers had noted that during Snyder case oral arguments, a majority of the Supreme Court Justices appeared skeptical that the federal bribery law’s Section 666 applied to “gratuities“ and were equally concerned that “corruptly” was too vague a standard, meaning the provision’s vagueness could become a trap for officials and place them at the mercy of the arbitrary discretion of aggressive federal prosecutors.

In the letter to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Alyssa Bell representing MRT’s appellate team, argued that the prosecution’s “monetization” theory sold to the jury during his trial was, in fact, legally invalid as definitively established by the Snyder Decision. The government lacked proof of a quid pro quo (a this-for-that exchange) as required by the bribery statute, thereby omitting an “essential element of the [alleged] offense.” There simply can be no bribe without the exchange of something of value for something of value, especially when the elected official had already committed to take the allegedly illegal action. In this case, the Snyder Decision supports MRT’s contention that he merely assisted a constituent within the bounds and interpretation of existing state and local law and customary practice.

The alleged bribe he received in return was nothing more than a “favor” or gratuity under Snyder: the imprimatur of an academic institution’s sponsorship of a community-based non-profit organized to survey the public policy preferences of Black constituents. Furthermore, the government cannot prove that their omissions and errors were not harmless. The jury was misled about the interpretation of law.  Therefore, “MRT’s conviction must be reversed.”

The Snyder Case sends a clear message to the Ninth Circuit: Dr. Ridley-Thomas's conviction was unconstitutional and caused incalculable harm to the citizens of Los Angeles City’s 10th Council District and consequently must be reversed. CD10 constituents saw their election of MRT nullified by an illegitimate, racially-motivated power grab led by then-Council President Nury Martinez — compounded by a groundless prosecution. In the process, CD10 voters were disenfranchised. Their voting rights were violated.  The due process rights of their duly elected Council member were violated. Fundamental fairness and the presumption of innocence were ignored. Exaggerated claims of corruption sullied the record and reputation of an accomplished and dedicated servant leader.

 The Snyder Decision provides Dr. Mark Ridley-Thomas another pathway to a successful appeal currently before the Ninth Circuit, which is scheduled to hear oral argument in October. Hopefully, the Circuit Court will afford MRT the relief he deserves: outright reversal of the verdict. If the Ninth Circuit is unwilling to reverse the jury’s verdict, then MRT should get a new trial. Truth and justice require nothing less.

This article was originally posted to LA Focus