Mark Ridley-Thomas, a seasoned Los Angeles politician who was convicted of fraud and bribery in a corruption scheme involving a USC dean, was granted his request to remain out of jail while he appeals his conviction on Thursday.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas Granted Bail While Appealing 32-Year Prison Sentence
Next month, Ridley-Thomas was supposed to turn himself in to U.S. Marshals and start serving a 32-year prison term. Prior to that, his defence attorneys asked the judge this week to grant him permission to continue to be free on bail while he works to have the verdict overturned before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Instead of opposing the motion as expected, the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles reached a deal with the defence team that frees Ridley-Thomas from prison while his appeal is being heard by a higher court. Prosecutors stated that the agreement was reached in a stipulation that was submitted on Thursday in order “to expedite the appellate process and obtain a final resolution of this case in a timely manner.”
The agreement was approved late on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who presided over Ridley-Thomas’ trial and sentenced him to prison.
In accordance with the schedule, defence counsel agreed to submit their appeal by January 24. Even if Ridley-Thomas pursues his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, he promised to start serving his prison sentence immediately if the 9th Circuit rules against him.
Alyssa D. Bell, a member of the defence team, described the prosecution’s action as “a positive step forward” and said that “Dr. Ridley-Thomas is having a good day.”
“Bail pending appeal is not the norm, so the government’s agreement in this case is, in my view, the right thing to do,” said Paul J. Watford, a former 9th Circuit judge who retired from the bench after 11 years on the bench and is currently representing Ridley-Thomas.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas Remains Free While Appealing White-Collar Conviction
Given that Ridley-Thomas was convicted of white-collar crimes, has no criminal history, is not regarded as a danger to the community, and is not considered to be at risk of fleeing, some solicitors who were not involved in the case disputed that the prosecution’s action was unusual.
“There’s nothing particularly alarming, unusual, or unethical,” said veteran defence attorney Stanley Greenberg. “The government has an interest in moving the case along one way or the other,” he said, describing how prosecutors would want to minimise waiting time if an appellate court ordered a new trial. “Witnesses’ memories fade over time. They would want to return it to its original course as soon as possible.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas resigned from his position due to medical issues, according to the defence team, not because their client was trying to hide the results of his son’s sexual harassment investigation.
Marilyn Flynn, a former dean of social work at USC, admitted to being a co-conspirator and was sentenced to one year in prison. She testified in court that she funnelled $100,000 through the school because “implicitly, I understood” that Ridley-Thomas would assist her in arranging a meeting with a key individual in the renewal of a government contract in Los Angeles County.
Flynn received a sentence of 18 months of house arrest. In this case, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was never charged.