LA WATCHDOG - On Friday, former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar finally faced reality and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of tax evasion. After all, it has been over four years since the FBI and the IRS raided his offices and home in November of 2018.
Under his plea agreement, Huizar will be sentenced to between nine and thirteen years in prison. He will also be required to surrender $129,000 in cash seized in the raid on his house. The government will seek over $1 million in restitution on the City’s behalf. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 3.
What is not known at this time is whether Huizar will be required to cooperate with federal authorities in the upcoming trial of former Deputy Mayor Ray Chan and in the pursuit of other City employees and developers who were part of his pay-to-play CD 14 Criminal Enterprise.
See the U.S. Attorney Office’s press release: Former Los Angeles City Politician José Huizar Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy and Tax Evasion Charges <Central District of California | Former Los Angeles City Politician José Huizar Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy and Tax Evasion Charges | United States Department of Justice>.
Also pleading guilty last week was Dixon Slingerland, the high-profile former President and CEO of the Youth Policy Institute, a Hollywood based nonprofit, to charges of embezzlement and tax evasion. Slingerland was at the center of a controversy when he arranged, along with Mayor Eric Garcetti, to create a Promise Zone for the Hollywood/Koreatown area of the City, upsetting many in South Los Angeles who believed that their area of the City was more deserving of assistance.
See the press release U.S. Attorney’s Office press release: Former CEO of Los Angeles-Based Anti-Poverty Nonprofit Agrees to Plead Guilty to Embezzling and Misusing Funds and Tax Offense < Central District of California | Former CEO of Los Angeles-Based Anti-Poverty Nonprofit Agrees to Plead Guilty to Embezzling and Misusing Funds and Tax Offense | United States Department of Justice>.
While Huizar avoided the spectacle of a trial, Ray Chan, a former Deputy Major appointed by Garcetti, is scheduled to go on trial on February 21 – as was Huizar. Chan is charged being a member of the CD 14 Criminal Enterprise and has pleaded not guilty to charges of RICO conspiracy, bribery, honest services fraud, and lying to federal agents.
Finally, the trial of Mark Ridley-Thomas is scheduled for March 7. He is charged with conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud, all of which he has pleaded not guilty.
When taken together, the City of Los Angeles is on trial. And coupled with the adverse publicity associated with the October disclosure of the NuryGate secret recordings, Angelenos, Californians, Americans, and the rest of the world will believe that our City Hall is the most corrupt in the nation and is inhabited by crooks and scoundrels.
This raises the question: what the City Council and the Mayor will do to reform its evil ways? Will it create an independent redistricting commission? Will it limit the City Council’s power over land use decisions? Will it engage in campaign finance reform? Will it empower the Ethics Commission? Will it limit the power of lobbyists? Will it expand the City Council? Will it limit the power of the campaign funding public sector unions?
NOW is the time for the Mayor and the City Council to begin the long process of regaining the trust and confidence of not only Angelenos, but the rest of the country.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)