#SeekingJustice Justice Watch

Preview: Deconstructing the conviction of Mark Ridley-Thomas

U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada speaks to press on steps of federal courthouse after verdict is announced in trial of Mark Ridley-Thomas, via WLA
Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

Two and-a-half months ago, on Thursday, March 30, 2023,  U.S. District Court Judge Dale S. Fischer read the jury verdict in the corruption and bribery case against Mark Ridley-Thomas, one of Los Angeles County’s most powerful and revered public figures.

The jury found the former state senator,  former assemblyman, former member of the board of supervisors, twice city council member to be guilty of seven of the 19 counts with which he had been charged by the U.S. Government on October 13, 2021.  

Although Ridley-Thomas was only convicted of slightly more than one third of the counts charged, each of those seven guilties potentially brings with it a multi-year prison term

When the news of the verdict broke, a portion of LA County residents believed that justice had been served, and that one more corrupt politician, in what sometimes feels like a sea of corrupt politicians, had gotten what he/she deserved.

Yet, when it came to those residents who know Ridley-Thomas well, or have worked with him, or lived in districts served by MRT, as he is often known for short, we found that many of those Angelenos had a very different reaction. 

“Not much about what happened to L.A. City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas on Thursday afternoon feels like justice,” wrote LA Times columnist Erika Smith after the verdict.

As expected, Mark Ridley-Thomas will appeal the conviction to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but that may take a while.

Meanwhile, on June 26, attorneys for Ridley-Thomas will argue two motions before Judge Fischer on behalf of their client. 

The first of the two motions, known as a Rule 29 motion, is usually presented before the case goes to the jury. But it may also be presented again after a conviction. In this instance, the defense argues that the prosecution’s case relied on false testimony and an incomplete investigation of the facts by the FBI’s lead investigator, Special Agent Brian Adkins, who was also the government’s star witness, and that the government “presented no evidence” of any illegal actions that “Dr. Ridley-Thomas actually took.”

The second motion, known as Rule 33 motion, requests a new trial. In this motion, the defense has argued—among other things— that “false and misleading testimony” by Agent Adkins strongly affected the jury’s decision as did, an array of “improper,” behaviors by government prosecutors throughout the trial.

So what is the truth of the matter?  Should MRT get a new trial?  Should he have been charged at all?  

Or is it as U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada stated at the end of March, post verdict: “Long-time politician Mark Ridley-Thomas was found guilty today by a jury of bribery in a scheme in which his son received substantial benefits from the University of Southern California in exchange for Ridley-Thomas’ political support for lucrative county contracts and contract amendments with the university while he served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.”

With all of the above questions and more in mind, in the weeks since Ridley-Thomas’s conviction WitnessLA has been delving into the government’s 19 allegations, the facts surrounding those allegations, the government’s case, the arguments of the defense, and much more.

Next week we’ll publish the first of a series of stories laying out what we found.

So…watch this space.


  • And suddenly witness la is skeptical of a FBI investigation. Up until now Celeste either turned a blind eye or cheered on all manor of Federal shenanigans. But that was against people she doesn’t like, now it’s one of her buddies so it’s different this time. Can’t wait to read the tortured logic she’ll use to explain how “ackshully” Thomas is really the victim in all of this.

    That’s all this blog is about, who the AWFLs see as good guys vs who they see as bad guys. All the talk about justice, journalistic ethics , and whatnot is a smoke screen.

  • MRT has been a well known crook for years. Remember when he was caught using County workers to do a remodel of his private residence when he was a County Supervisor? Swept under the rug. He’s been corrupt for years, he’s finally nailed and all of a sudden HE’S a victim. Love it!

  • Witness LA is really going to the mat for this guy, she even dares to hold the LA Times to “account”. Celeste is very protective of her team, now if Thomas’s last name was Villanueva does anyone doubt she’d be joining in on the dog pile? (Given the exact same circumstances)

  • All I can say is something doesn’t smell right the “star witness is an FBI agent.” Can you name one person in the black community who has done more for the City of Los Angeles than MRT?
    Nope, you can’t! But I am quite sure this had more to do with him running for mayor than anything else. See MRT has people power and the other potential candidates only had money. So, these Trump-up charges are just what we know to be true. False and engineered.

    The White lady who supposedly excepted the bribe, I know because of her white privilege she will not see a day in jail right?

Leave a Comment