‘Unethical’ or ‘illegal?’ Mark Ridley-Thomas trial begins

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Mark Ridley-Thomas gives a speech during the first celebration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday at the re-opening of Leimert Park, Los Angeles, June 19, 2021. Photo by Ted Soqui/SIPA USA via Reuters Connect.

Former LA City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas is on trial on 19 counts of federal corruption involving kickbacks to help his son get a job at USC while representing LA’s 10th district. His defense? His actions were “unethical,” not “illegal.” Supporters with deep pockets have helped fund his nearly $1.5 million defense fund.

“I think [Ridley-Thomas’ defense fund] speaks to how connected Mark was and how liked he is, despite his history of being prickly. And that's great. I don't know if it'll make any difference in terms of the outcome. But again, I think the core issue is: If he did what he's accused of doing, it's illegal, and we should not excuse it because he is one of a dwindling number of Black politicians in LA,” says journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan.