LA COUNCIL TROUBLES
Curren Price seared with embezzlement, perjury charges
Councilman Curren D. Price
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—Following searing charges of theft by embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest against Los Angeles Councilman Curren D. Price, Council President Paul Krekorian has introduced a motion to suspend the three-term Ninth District lawmaker.
The charges against Price, are alleged to be for his voting record on projects involving developers tied to his wife's consulting firm, then failing to report the connections.
Price, 72, has represented the Ninth District, which includes most of South Los Angeles and Exposition Park, since 2013. He previously served in the state Assembly and state Senate.
The councilman was charged with five counts of grand theft by embezzlement, three counts of perjury and two counts of conflict of interest, according to a criminal complaint by provided the District Attorney's Office. Motions were also introduced to have Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson fill Price's position of president pro tempore of the council, and to initiate a process for community input from Ninth District residents.
For now, Krekorian said he will be appointing Councilman Bob Blumenfield as the assistant pro tem.
The motion to suspend Price, pursuant to Section 211 of the City Charter, will proceed to the Rules Com- mittee for hearing, then back to the full council for a final vote. A Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee meeting is scheduled a week from Friday, but Krekorian said the council might agree to a special session to discuss the motion sooner.
At a news conference Wednesday morning at City Hall to explain the council's next steps, Krekorian acknow- ledged that the council has been rocked by a number of scandals in recent years which are "palpably felt by me, by the members of the council and certainly by the members of the public."
But he also recognized the need to look at these cases as "things that stand on their own." Regarding the charges against Price, Krekorian noted that the council does not know whether they have merit. The judicial process will bear that out, he added.
"The process will give the council adequate opportunity to consider all of the issues, including the nature
of the charges that have been filed and the impacts of suspension on the people of the Ninth District," Krekorian said.
If the council ultimately makes the decision to suspend Price, Krekorian said he would "immediately appoint a caretaker" to ensure that the work of the Ninth District office continues. Krekorian said the caretaker could be a temporary voting member.
"That is obviously a deeply political process that the community will have to have significant weigh-in as to who that person might be to represent them as a temporary voting member," he added.
Harris-Dawson introduced the motion to initiate the process for community input from the Ninth District.
Krekorian cited a need to engage constituents "because in the past when there had been actions taken surrounding suspension, the people of the district have voiced their concerns about being left without representation."
Krekorian's motion to suspend Price had already gained Blumenfield's support. "This continuous string of charges against city officials is depressing and demoralizing," Blumenfield said in a statement released shortly before the news conference.
The statement continues: "So many people within council offices and city departments work their tails off to
do good for our city with integrity and determination. These charges hurt the public trust that dedicated public servants have worked to build up. After the charges, scandals and convictions, we cannot become numb to corruption.
"We must restore trust and integrity in our local government and as much as it pains me because of Mr. Price's long record of excellent service, I fully support Council President Krekorian introducing legislation to suspend Councilmember Price."
Late Tuesday afternoon, Price had sent a letter to Krekorian announcing his decision to step down as council president pro tem, and surrendering all of his committee assignments.
"While I navigate through the judicial system to defend my name against unwarranted charges filed against me, the last thing I want to do is be a distraction to the people's business," Price wrote in the letter.
An arraignment date is still pending for Price. The criminal complaint, filed Tuesday, also alleges that Price effectively embezzled money between 2013 and 2017 by having the city cover roughly $33,800 in medical
premiums for Del Richardson, to whom he claimed to be married, although he was still married at the time to Lynn Suzette Price.
Price's spokeswoman, Angelina Valencia-Dumarot, said "it's highly unusual for charges like this to be
brought up against a sitting City Council member without any prior notice or discussion. "Curren Price is a longstanding public servant who has given his life to the city of Los Angeles. He looks forward to defending himself once he's had an opportunity to address these charges," she added.
Zach Seidl, spokesman for Mayor Karen Bass, issued a statement saying, "The mayor has yet to review the charges filed earlier today but she is saddened by this news."
According to the complaint, between 2019 and 2021, Price's wife's consulting firm, Del Richardson & Associates, received payments totaling more than $150,000 from a pair of developers, after which Price voted on matters pertaining to the companies. He also allegedly failed to report the connections or the money paid to his wife's company on city disclosure forms.
"[The\ charges against Councilman Curren Price are the result of a thorough investigation into allegations of public corruption," District Atty. George Gascón said in a statement. "This alleged conduct undermines the integrity of our government and erodes the public's trust in our elected officials. We will continue to work tirelessly to root out corruption at all levels and hold accountable those who betray the public's trust."
Price is the latest Los Angeles city official to fall into legal or political turmoil. Former council members Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander have both pleaded guilty to federal charges in recent years, while Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was convicted earlier this year of federal charges for trading votes during his time on the county Board of Supervisors in exchange for benefits provided by USC to his son.
Former Council President Nury Martinez resigned last year after being caught on tape in a racially charged conversation with two other council members and a county labor official discussing the council's redistricting process.
Jury rules against sheriff's lieutenant in retaliation suit trial
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—A jury has rejected a sheriff's lieutenant's lawsuit against Los Angeles County in which he alleged he was wrongfully denied an interview for promotion to captain of the Compton sheriff's station for reporting that deputies at the station had engaged in a work slowdown.
Lt. Larry Waldie also alleged in his Los Angeles Superior Court suit that he was targeted and demoted after he spoke out against what he said was the undue influence at the Compton station of an internal subgroup of deputies known as the Executioners when he was acting captain there. During trial, a deputy called to testify rolled up his pants and showed his own tattoo that is allegedly sported by some Executioners members, a helmeted skeleton holding a rifle.
The jury deliberated for less than a day before reaching its verdict in the retaliation case. The panel found 12-0 that Waldie engaged in whistleblowing activity, but that it was not a substantial factor in how he was treated.
Attorneys for the county maintained there was no work slowdown and that Waldie was insulted at not being selected for the captain position, which was given instead to someone with 10 years more experience. They also said the alleged deputy gang issue had nothing to do with the case.
But Waldie maintained he was the most qualified candidate for the position of permanent captain of Compton Station when he applied in August 2019. He also contended the county violated its own charter and a civil service rule by not filling the position with him as the most qualified candidate.
Waldie also maintained he suffered further retaliation when the LASD allegedly blocked any transfer or promo- tional opportunities because he filed a grievance in September 2019.
Waldie testified extensively in the case, as did former Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was criticized during his time in office for allegedly not doing enough to address the deputy gang issue.
New Sheriff Robert Luna vowed to crack down on deputy gangs within the department. He recently ordered deputies to comply with a directive sent to some department members by the Office of the Inspector General, requiring them to answer questions about their potential involvement in such gangs and to show any tattoos they may have indicating affiliation with the groups.
The deputies' union—the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs—filed a legal action late last month challenging the directive as a potential violation of constitutional rights. It also contended the issue should
have first been subject to bargaining with the union.
Sheriff's deputy indicted
Charged with sexually- related offenses with 4
girls between 2006-22
By TERRI VERMEULEN KEITH
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy pleaded not guilty Aug. 10 to a grand jury indictment charging him with sex-related offenses involving four girls from 2006-2022.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta ordered Sean Essex, 51, to be held without bail pending a Sept. 1 bail review hear- ing. The judge noted that Essex is facing "multiple life sentences" if convicted as charged.
The grand jury indictment, handed up Tuesday and unsealed Wed- nesday, charges Essex with 33 counts, including continuous sexual abuse, oral copulation with a child under 10, lewd act on a child and
Sean Essex. Screenshot
possession of child or youth pornography. The indictment refers to the alleged victims as "Jane Does 1,2,3,4."
Three of the alleged victims are related to a woman Essex dated about 20 years ago, Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson told the judge in requesting that Essex be held without bail.
The indictment also includes a lewd act charge involving a girl who reported the alleged crime in 2006 in a case that the District Attorney'sOffice said was previously declined by their office. The girls were between 7
and 13 at the time of the alleged crimes, according to the District Attorney's Office.
"Sexually assaulting a child not only robs them of their innocence but leaves lasting mental trauma," District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement released shortly after the indictment was unsealed. "This is one
of the most egregious crimes my office encounters and is made worse when the crime is committed by some- one who has been entrusted to protect them and our community from harm."
Essex was initially arrested April 8 by investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Inter- nal Criminal Investigations Bureau and booked on suspicion of one count each of lewd/lascivious acts with a
child under 14 years and oral copulation with a child under the age of 14. He was released on bond that day, according to jail records.
Essex was re-arrested about 7:40 p.m. Tuesday night, jail records show. His current status with the sheriff's department was not immediately available.
"The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department expects all of its members to hold themselves to the highest ethical and professional standards at all times," the department said in a statement released in April shortly after Essex's arrest. "Department members who engage in misconduct, especially criminal misconduct that preys on a vulnerable population, will not be tolerated and will be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," according to the statement.
Essex's attorney had no immediate comment on the indictment.
Sentencing delayed again for former Suge Knight attorney
LOS ANGELES (CNS)—Sentencing on conspiracy and perjury charges was delayed again May 17 for a lawyer who briefly represented former rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight in what was a murder case at the time.
Sentencing was initially scheduled Tuesday for Matthew Powell Fletcher, but he showed up in court that after- noon, about four hours after a judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest that was subsequently withdrawn.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli told Fletcher then that he "seriously considered" putting him in jail until the next court date, but said he would accept the 57-year-old defendant's explanation
that he thought his sentencing was scheduled a day later.
The hearing was rescheduled for Friday, but the matter had to be delayed again, with a prosecutor noting Fletcher still had not signed the extensive paperwork finalizing his disbarment, which is a condition of the plea agreement.
Fletcher pleaded guilty Feb. 16 to one felony count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice in Knight's case and perjury under oath stemming from a State Bar disciplinary proceeding involving a separate murder case. The plea
came as a jury was already deliberating in his trial.
Under the plea agreement, Fletcher is facing five years of probation but no jail time. The deal also requires him to resign from the State Bar of California.
In court May 17, Fletcher said he had resigned from the Bar, but wanted time to review the lengthy stipulation of disbarment. With that matter still pending as of May 20, the sentencing was postponed and another hearing was set for June 1.
Fletcher, a Long Beach-based attorney, had practiced for more than 24 years.
Under the last-minute deal reached with prosecutors as jurors were deliberating in his case, Fletcher agreed not to practice law in California or apply for reinstatement with the State Bar.
"He was smart because the jurors were going to convict him of four to five counts,'' Deputy District Attorney Phil Stirling said outside court after the plea was announced.
The prosecutor noted that it was the ``wildest, most dramatic case'' he had ever tried in three decades.
Fletcher represented Knight for a short time in a case in which the former rap mogul eventually pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter for running over a man with a pickup in the parking lot of a Compton hamburger stand.
Fletcher was indicted by a Los Angeles County grand jury just over four years ago on one count each of cons- piracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to suborn perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and accessory after the fact
involving Knight's case. He was also indicted on one count of perjury under oath involving his testimony at a State Bar hearing involving whether he had texted the brother of a defendant in another case and provided him his banking information.
Another of Knight's former attorneys, Thaddeus Culpepper, 48, was also indicted.
In his closing argument during Fletcher's trial, Deputy District Attorney Stefan Mrakich said Fletcher and others were involved in a conspiracy to either get the case against Knight dismissed or for Knight to be acquitted
through false testimony when they knew he was guilty.
Fletcher—acting as his own attorney—said he had proven that the entire working theory of the case was "wrong" and accused prosecutors of making personal attacks "when they know what they're saying is baloney."
"There is no evidence that I gave anyone anything, none," he said, telling the panel that he had challenged prosecutors to call in a witness to say that he had offered to pay anyone even a penny.
"They have no evidence that I ... entered into a conspiracy with anybody," Fletcher said.
Stirling told the jury in his rebuttal argument that Fletcher is "wildly dishonest at the highest level," arguing that Fletcher "has lied to you repeatedly."
"You can't have a justice system that allows attorneys to lie and manipulate ... We need this system to be pure, as pure as possible,'' the prosecutor said Monday a few hours before jurors were handed the case. "This case is
entirely about dishonesty."
In one jailhouse recording, Fletcher told Knight in March 2015 that $20,000 to $25,000 would be a fair investment to secure his freedom.
Fletcher also told an informant for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in May 2016 that witnesses in Knight's case needed to be paid for their testimony, and subsequently told Knight that Cle "Bone" Sloan, who
survived being struck by the truck, needed to be paid money for his testimony, according to the grand jury indictment that was handed up in January 2018.
Knight initially was charged with murder for Terry Carter's Jan. 29, 2015, death. He pleaded no contest in October 2018 to voluntary manslaughter and admitted that he used a deadly weapon—a truck—during the commission
of the crime in the parking lot of Tam's Burgers in the 1200 block of West Rosecrans Avenue.
Knight is serving a 28-year state prison term.
Mark Blankenship, a one-time business partner of Knight, pleaded no contest in June 2019 to a felony conspiracy charge stemming from the sale of video footage of the crime and was sentenced to five years probation.
Knight's fiancée, Toi-Lin Kelly, pleaded no contest in 2017 for conspiracy to violate a court order involving video evidence that was under seal, and she was subsequently sentenced to three yeas in jail for violating her proba-
tion by having indirect communication with Knight, helping him violate restrictions for use of jailhouse phones.
Suge Knight will appear virtually during trial of slain man's civil suit
Marion "Suge" Knight. LASD Photo
COMPTON (CNS)—Imprisoned Marion "Suge" Knight will appear in court
virtually rather than in person during trial of a lawsuit brought by relatives
of a man the former rap mogul ran over and killed with a pickup truck in
Compton in 2015, a judge has ruled.
Compton Superior Court Judge Thomas D. Long issued the order May 9 to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ahead of the May 15 scheduled start of the trial of the case brought by family members of the late Terry Carter. The directive allows Knight, who is housed at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, to make a virtual appearance from jury selection to the verdict in the case.
Knight, now 57, pleaded no contest in September 2018 to voluntary man-
slaughter for killing the 55-year-old Carter after an argument near a promo-
tional shoot for the movie "Straight Outta Compton" on Jan. 29, 2015.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen sentenced him to 28 years in prison a month after his plea.
Knight also admitted an allegation that he used a deadly weapon—a truck— during the commission of the crime in the parking lot of Tam's Burgers in the 1200 block of West Rosecrans Avenue. A replica of the diner was featured
during the Super Bowl half-time show on Feb. 6 at SoFi Stadium.
The plaintiffs in the civil suit, filed in June 2015, are Carter's widow, Lillian; and daughters Crystal and Nekaya. Tentatively scheduled to testify during trial along with Knight and the plaintiffs are hip hop producer Jimmy
"Jim-Bob" Chris and rapper D-Dog.
Knight also struck and seriously injured Cle "Bone" Sloan during the confrontation, which was captured on surveillance video. Knight had claimed he was trying to flee the scene in his truck and contended that Sloan, who was working security for the film set, had a gun.
Knight, a Compton-born former football player, co-founded Death Row Records, which in its heyday in the early 1990s was generating revenues of about $100 million per year. He helped launch some of rap's biggest acts,
including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. He was with Shakur the night he was gunned down in 1996.
Knight served five years in prison for assault and federal weapons violations and, after his release in 2001, spent another 10 months behind bars for violating parole by striking a Hollywood nightclub valet. In August 2014, he was shot a half-dozen times at a Los Angeles-area nightclub.