WHERE WE STAND — U.S. Supreme Court Opens a New Pathway for Mark Ridley-Thomas Appeal

WHERE WE STAND — U.S. Supreme Court Opens a New Pathway for Mark Ridley-Thomas Appeal

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 decision in Snyder v. United States is part of a long line of cases aimed at curtailing prosecutorial overreach and abuse of power. The High Court has ruled, time and again, that federal prosecutors may not use federal anti-corruption laws to impose their own personal and political views on state and local officials. The Snyder Case returns power where it belongs — to states and localities that can now set reasonable standards for good governance without dubious federal interference.

The Snyder Case is an important decision for Dr. Mark Ridley-Thomas (MRT), his constituents and supporters, as well as his appellate team's pursuit of justice.

Dr. Ridley-Thomas was convicted of federal-programs bribery for conduct that looks nothing like bribery, and, in fact, was anything but. There was no evidence that MRT’s conduct was illegal according to state law — he complied fully with all state campaign disclosure rules.  There was no evidence that he broke any ethics rules; no evidence of any broken campaign finance laws; no evidence that MRT received any financial benefit from his conduct; no evidence he violated normal County contracting procedures or pressured other County officials; no evidence that his son received any financial benefit or personal enrichment from USC’s lawful $100K donation to the non-profit he headed; and no evidence that the county motion MRT supported was not for community good or that it diverted funds for illegitimate purposes. In sum, MRT did not use his public position for private financial gain.

In fact, the use of all the funds in question in this case were for a public purpose. They resulted in no personal financial enrichment or benefit for anyone named Ridley-Thomas. The one contract in question in this case was an extension of a pre-existing contract for Telehealth mental services MRT had already committed to support. It appropriated no new funding.

The $100K sponsorship of the non-profit made at the discretion of the USC Dean of the Social Work School was to finance polling of L.A. County Black constituents on important public policy preferences. Both efforts benefitted constituents — the Social Work School’s academic program, the recipients of County mental health services, the African American community, County District 2 residents, and the general public.

Following the Snyder Case, it is clear that federal prosecutors contorted the federal-programs bribery statute in ways that Congress never intended. Their novel, unique and twisted legal theory has been rendered invalid.

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.  Their duly elected Council member’s due process rights 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 seeks: either outright reversal of the verdict or a new trial. Truth and justice require nothing less.