Ex-USC dean admits Mark Ridley-Thomas bribe

A former USC dean on Thursday agreed to plead guilty to bribery, admitting she arranged a $100,000 bribe for Mark Ridley-Thomas when he served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in exchange for a USC contract with the county.

Marilyn Flynn, 83, who served as dean of the USC School of Social Work from 1997 to 2018, reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors that was signed Thursday and filed in court the same day.

His admission of guilt is a blow to Ridley-Thomas, now a Los Angeles city councilman who has been suspended as he defends himself against federal charges of bribery, fraud and conspiracy.

Ridley-Thomas is due to stand trial in November, and it was not immediately clear whether Flynn would testify against him. The plea agreement does not contain an obligation for her to cooperate, and her defense attorneys, Vicki Podberesky and Brian Hennigan, did not return messages seeking comment.

Flynn’s plea also reduces the likelihood that evidence related to Rep. Karen Bass, the top slate in the Los Angeles mayoral race, will be released publicly at the trial.

The temperature reported last week that prosecutors had reviewed Bass’ receipt of a full scholarship from Flynn in 2011, during his first term, and deemed it “essential” to show Flynn’s corrupt intent. Prosecutors noted that Flynn provided “input” on the legislation to Bass, who then proposed a bill that would have given USC and other private universities greater access to federal funds for social work. – “just as the defendant Flynn wanted”, according to court documents.

With only Ridley-Thomas on trial this year, it’s unclear how or if prosecutors would present evidence unrelated to his conduct.

The charge to which Flynn agreed to plead guilty carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, but prosecutors agreed to recommend that she be confined to her home in Los Feliz and fined up to 150 $000.

As part of the plea deal, Flynn admitted to participating in a complex bribery scheme that involved funneling $100,000 from a Ridley-Thomas campaign committee through USC in 2018.

Once the $100,000 arrived, Flynn almost immediately asked USC to transfer the money to United Ways of California, a nonprofit that sponsored a newly formed organization led by the supervisor’s son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

Neither Ridley-Thomas nor his son ever received the money personally. Flynn’s plea deal confirms the money was to be used to hire an employee of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas’ new initiative, which he joined after abruptly resigning as an MP following a sexual harassment investigation.

Flynn acknowledged that she arranged to funnel the money through USC in exchange for Ridley-Thomas’ support of a county contract with the School of Social Work to provide online mental health services to patients. referred by the county.

According to the timeline of court documents, Flynn told Ridley-Thomas on May 8, 2018 that the $100,000 had been “cleared” and would be “sent overnight” to his son’s group. Two days later — at a meeting hosted by Ridley-Thomas — Flynn met with an LA County official regarding the mental health contract she was seeking.

The next day, when the $100,000 payment was handed over, Ridley-Thomas told Flynn via email that he wanted to talk about “broad contract stuff” and “somehow use yesterday’s “discussion” to move it forward. The email ended with a “wink” emoji, according to the plea agreement.

Galia Amram, defense attorney for Ridley-Thomas, told The Times in a statement that the plea deal “makes a number of flawed assumptions – particularly where [Flynn] alleges an understanding of what Mr. Ridley-Thomas understood or thought.

“Mr. Ridley-Thomas is innocent of the charges against him,” Amram said. “We look forward to his day in court to clear his reputation.”

Flynn is expected to officially enter his plea in court in the coming weeks.

His plea of ​​guilt marks the ignominious end of a decades-long career. Until her ousting as dean, the revelations of financial problems at the School of Social Workand her involvement in a federal corruption case, Flynn was considered a visionary in her field who had made USC the largest social work program in the world.

She cultivated ties with political leaders in the area and invited county officials to dinner at her well-appointed home near the foot of Griffith Park. After the great notoriety dead abuse of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in Palmdale, she served on the Blue Ribbon Commission to assess failures in the child welfare system.

She summarized her vision for the profession in a 2014 lecture given at USC.

“I think social work is the force that makes the economy a society, and as the economy grows, social work ensures that those at the bottom – those who are ignored , those who are forgotten – rise in their sense of opportunity and prospect with the rest,” Flynn said.

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