Judge Dale S. Fischer’s ruling on the Rule 29 (Acquittal) and Rule 33 (New Trial) motions was disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. A favorable ruling, though possible, was improbable and the motions filed by Dr. Mark Ridley-Thomas’ defense team were a necessary procedural step in pursuit of truth, fairness and, ultimately, justice.
The arguments presented by the defense exposed the prosecution’s use of falsehoods by FBI Special Agent Brad Adkins, the government’s star witness, as well as the overall weakness of its case. Critical issues associated with the official act at the heart of the quid pro quo for which MRT was convicted, the value of the act, the nature of the “conspiracy” in which he was allegedly engaged, and his obligation to declare a “conflict of interest” associated with an irrefutably legal $100,000 contribution reinforced community perception of the injustice of the jury’s verdict in the case.
The prosecution persuaded a jury that MRT’s request of USC Dean Marilyn Flynn to “act with dispatch” in making a $100,000 sponsorship to a non-profit think tank was part of a grand conspiracy to benefit Sebastian Ridley-Thomas. The prosecution asserted that a non-controversial vote on an extension of a contract previously supported by MRT was part of a grand conspiracy that denied his constituents honest services. The court of public opinion, however, remains unconvinced: It was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors on consent, the value of the original contract remain unchanged (not the millions of dollars the prosecution originally claimed), neither MRT nor Sebastian personally benefited, and the think tank was established to survey, study and analyze African American political behavior in the pursuit of Black political empowerment. Of the 19 counts in the original indictment, MRT was acquitted on 12 – all related to benefits allegedly received by Sebastian.
We still support Dr. Mark Ridley-Thomas and the quest for justice.
The extraordinarily successful mobilizations on Friday, June 23rd—An Evening of Compassion and Cry for Justice—and on Monday, June 26th’s Hearing on Acquittal and Dismissal were important public displays of community support. They counter efforts by the government and a mainstream media narrative that seeks to suggest public support is limited to a narrow, self interested stratum of lobbyists, a paid public relations firm and a blindly loyal group of former staff. The fact of the matter is the gallery was filled to capacity with a broad range of religious leaders, an ethnically diverse group of civic leaders, medical and health professionals, community activists, former and current public servants, legal observers, constituents and neighborhood leaders.
Courtroom gallery observers were upset with the inaccuracy and mischaracterization of what appeared in the LA Times on Tuesday, June 27th:
“Among the crowd were lobbyists, former staffers, Ridley-Thomas’ wife and a public relations team assisting his defense.”
This sentence overlooks the robust community support — consistently demonstrated since the October 13, 2021 indictment — for Dr. Ridley-Thomas and likely leaves readers nothing to gauge the size, composition or importance of those who attended.
Like the prosecution itself, the media coverage paints an inaccurate picture of Dr. Ridley-Thomas’ actions, trial and subsequent conviction and their impacts on CD10, Los Angeles’ Black community, as well as important community partners across Los Angeles.
We certainly hope Judge Fischer will take these concerns under consideration as this unsettling ordeal moves forward.