LOS ANGELES (AP) — A veteran Los Angeles politician was sentenced Monday to 3 1/2 years in prison for a scheme in which he sought benefits for his son in exchange for supporting lucrative government contracts with the University of Southern California School of Social Work.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, most recently a city councilmember, was sentenced in U.S. District Court on seven felony convictions including conspiracy, bribery and fraud for actions while he was a member of the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Judge Dale S. Fischer also ordered Ridley-Thomas, 68, to pay a $30,000 fine.
A jury in March found that Ridley-Thomas schemed in 2017 and 2018 with Marilyn Louise Flynn, then dean of USC's School of Social Work, to funnel $100,000 from a Ridley-Thomas campaign fund through the university to a nonprofit run by his son.
Prosecutors said the son also received graduate school admission, a scholarship and a paid professorship in the course of the conspiracy and bribery scheme.
At sentencing, Ridley-Thomas apologized to his family and others in the courtroom, saying that he regretted his actions. He also maintained that they were not necessarily illegal.
“This case exists somewhere between what is clearly legal conduct on one end, and clearly illegal conduct on the other,” Ridley-Thomas said, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The City Council suspended Ridley-Thomas in October 2021 after he was charged and his seat was declared vacant when he was convicted.
It was a stunning fall for a once-commanding figure in LA politics, who earlier served in the state Senate and Assembly, and was known for his involvement in civil rights.