LOS ANGELES, CA – On Tuesday, Federal Agents arrested longtime LA City Councilman Jose Huizar on one count of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Huizar was arrested at his Boyle Heights home.
Huizar made his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon, where U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul L. Abrams ordered him to be released on $100,000 bond. He has not entered a plea to the racketeering charge.
A preliminary hearing for Huizar has been tentatively set for July 14, and an arraignment for July 20. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted as charged.
BREAKING: L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar arrested in 'pay-to-play' corruption probe https://t.co/DVvisLsQF7
— Emily Alpert Reyes (@AlpertReyes) June 23, 2020
CBS LA reported that the arrest came 18 months after federal agents raided his home and office looking for evidence of bribery from real estate developers. After the raids in November of 2018, Huiza was not arrested and maintained his seat on the LA City Council.
Huiza was, however, removed from his “powerful” position on the Planning and Land Use Committee. According to U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna, Jose Huiza “decided which projects lived, and which projects died.”
Hanna went on to say that the 116-page affidavit:
“Accuses Huizar of running a pay-to-play scheme in which he and his associates solicited bribes from developers to insure that their project received favorable treatment during the city’s approval process.”
Hanna went on to reveal that a real-estate developer gave Huiza $500,000 in paper bags to help resolve a labor dispute. The middleman who set up the meeting and facilitate the money transfer has already entered into a plea deal with the government.
A Chinese real estate developer put up $600,000 in collateral so that Huizar could get a bank loan to pay off a woman who had accused him of sexual harassment, the complaint alleges. When Huizar stopped making payments on the loan, the collateral was used to pay off the remainder of the loan.
— US Attorney L.A. (@USAO_LosAngeles) June 23, 2020
Hanna also announced that Huiza was planning to have his wife run for his seat to continue the corruption.
“Unfortunately, (L.A.’s) grand exterior has concealed a cancer, a disease of elected officials and staff members breaking a series of laws in order to line their own pockets, maintain power, and keep open a spigot of illicit bribes and other benefits.”
In March, former L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander was arrested on charges that he accepted thousands of dollars in cash, a female escort and expensive hotel rooms from a businessman who operated companies in L.A. and was involved in major development projects and wanted to increase his business with the city. He agreed to plead guilty a few weeks after his arrest.
Englander represented the San Fernando Valley’s 12th District from 2011 to December 2018, when he abruptly stepped down despite having two years remaining on his term.
Last month, a former aide to Huizar, 33-year-old George Esparza, agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection with the bribery scheme.
A real estate development consultant agreed to a plea deal in the case last month as well.
In December 2019, partly in response to the Huizar case, the city council unanimously passed an ordinance which bans real estate developers from contributing to political candidates running for city office.
#BREAKING Photos from the complaint show some of the cash prosecutors allege Councilman Jose Huizar and his associates received from developers to help push their projects through the city planning process. @SpecNews1SoCal pic.twitter.com/5WATbJtNef
— Natalie Brunell (@natbrunell) June 23, 2020
Huizar has represented District 14 since 2005, which is mostly made up by the Boyle Heights area. He is prevented from running again due to term limits when his current term expires in November.
L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez issued the following statement Tuesday:
“While today’s announcement on the arrest of Councilmember Huizar is not unexpected, the horrendous and disgusting allegations leveled against him and others have painted a dark cloud over our City government for a long time now.
“Effective today, I will begin the process of removing him from office so that the good people of Council District 14 and the City of Los Angeles will be fairly and honorably represented. That is our duty and we must do it.”
While the corruption continues piling up in City Council, LA’s Mayor is considerably cutting funding to the police. Here’s that original story from Law Enforcement Today.
The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, levied a challenge toward the city on June 3rd to identify budgetary cuts in the realm of $250 million to be redirected in investing into communities of color, women and “people who have been left behind.”
Apparently, up to $150 million has already been identified and is being cut from the LAPD’s budget.
So less police will keep us safer? When we are in trouble, we're supposed to call a community leader? Los Angeles to slash up to $150M from LAPD budget, reinvest into communities of color https://t.co/Rc6oUQJK5D #FoxNews
— GC⭐⭐⭐ (@etf13) June 4, 2020
These redirected funds, according to Mayor Garcetti, are “so we can invest in jobs, in health, in education and in healing.”
While the notion of jobs, healthcare, and education are fairly easy to envision how funds can be used, the “healing” portion isn’t something clearly defined as to the “what” and “how” of that mentioned endeavor.
Eileen Decker, who serves as the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, noted that somewhere between $100 million to $150 million would be pulled directly from police department funding.
City Council President Nury Martinez had also brought up the idea of extracting funds for policing prior to Decker’s approval of the notion.
L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez introduced a motion today asking city staff to identify $100 million -$150 million in possible cuts in the LAPD budget to be reinvested into disadvantaged communities and communities of color.
— Emily Alpert Reyes (@AlpertReyes) June 3, 2020
The annual budget for the LAPD, as it currently stands, is $1.86 billion.
If the entire $150 million cited is extracted from the annual LAPD budget, that would bring down the monetary resources to $1.71 billion.
It is unclear whether this would be a one-time extraction or an ongoing amendment to the budget moving forward annually.
Melina Abdullah, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter’s Los Angeles outfit, reportedly feels as though the budget cuts mentioned are not enough.
BLM-LA cofounder Melina Abdullah says L.A. needs to go further with pulling money from the LAPD to fund other services, saying council and mayor "need to know that we’re fighting for truly transformative change here and won’t be bought off with just this minimal amount of money.”
— Emily Alpert Reyes (@AlpertReyes) June 4, 2020
What also isn’t clear is what these budget cuts will be aimed at exactly within the department.
There are numerous ways that these budget cuts to policing could be enabled.
A few possible ways would be a reduction in force at various precincts, altering the cadence of equipment maintenance for the likes of cruisers, dialing back pay increases, eliminating overtime opportunities, or avoiding equipment purchases that were planned for the year.
Essentially, some forms of budgetary cuts can be more detrimental than others for a department – but any form of reduced financing is hardly ever desirable for those tasked with directing funds.
If the budget must be cut, which it seems it does, the LAPD will have to determine a manner in which the police force’s ability to serve the community isn’t terribly hindered. That task is one that any police department would not envy.
Hopefully, the LAPD can adhere to the requested slashing of the budget in a manner that creates the least amount to tangible harm to the department’s mission.
These cuts requested clearly stem from the protests and riots that sparked in California, which started on May 27th, following the death of George Floyd.
Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s report from May 27th when we first got word of the demonstrations reaching California.
LOS ANGELES, CA – Reports are coming in of more than 1,000 protestors descending on downtown Los Angeles as the protests over George Floyd spread from Minneapolis to California.
Protests have reached Los Angeles. This is downtown right now.
It’s all happening.
— Justin L. Hunte ?????? (@TheCompanyMan) May 28, 2020
Highways were shut down by protesters before things turned violent.
— Leon Matron (@theaquakid) May 28, 2020
Law Enforcement Today has learned from multiple sources that a Black Lives Matter protester was severely injured after being thrown from the hood of a police cruiser in downtown during the demonstration.
WATCH: Protest march in downtown Los Angeles turns violent. One protester was injured after climbing on a CHP cruiser. A person broke the rear window and the officer drove off. (Video courtesy of ABC 7)
— KESQ News Channel 3 (@KESQ) May 28, 2020
Wednesday afternoon, the first break-off protest popped up and quickly turned violent.
https://t.co/V5HmSzJwY6 riots and protests in Los Angeles. Nation wide protests erupting now live. America in turbulent times.
— Real News Network. Global Breaking News 24/7. (@RealNews3362) May 28, 2020
Shocking aerial footage captured several protesters as they surrounded and smashed out the back windows of the California Highway Patrol cruiser before one man climbed on top of the hood.
— John Titor (@JohnTitor33621) May 28, 2020
We’re told the police officer tried to take off in self defense, and that the man rode on the hood for several seconds before he was sent tumbling off the car into the road.
When backup arrived, the windows of that cruiser were also smashed and it was seen fleeing the scene.
— Mehrdad Torabi (@mehrdadt1987) May 28, 2020
EMT’s rushed out to attend to the man, who was pictured lying motionless on the ground momentarily before being taken away in an ambulance.
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