A prominent California Democrat, who previously served as the Los Angeles County supervisor and a city councilman, will spend more than three years in federal prison for corruption.

Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former California state senator and assemblyman, will spend 42 months behind bars following a scheme that prosecutors said was designed for his son to be paid by the University of Southern California in exchange for him using his position to vote to award the school favorable city contracts.

Prosecutors called the scheme a “shakedown” that the local lawmaker intended to result in his son Sebastian Ridley-Thomas receiving up to $100,000 funneled into his non-profit, CBS News reported.

Marilyn Flynn, the former dean of the USC School of Social Work, previously told a court she bribed the councilman and was sentenced in July to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine.

Ridley-Thomas, 68, was convicted in March by a jury on counts of conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud.

He was acquitted on 12 other counts of fraud.

In addition to spending more than three years in prison, Ridley-Thomas was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer to pay a $30,000 fine.

“There is simply no justification for monetizing a public office,” Fischer said in a statement after handing down the sentence.

The prosecution had asked Fischer for a sentence of six years in prison and three years of supervised release.

Ridley-Thomas’ legal team had asked for house arrest, community service and a fine.

U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Martin Estrada said the jury’s decision to convict was an easy one.


“What was essential to this case was that $100,000 the defendant in this case tried to funnel through USC to get to his son’s non-profit,” Estrada said. “On that fact pattern, the jury convicted him.”

The prosecution categorized Ridley-Thomas’ crimes as a scheme that ultimately eroded public trust in its institutions while arguing for a harsh sentence.

The former councilman had participated in crimes that were not “the kind in movies with bags of cash or threats of force,” the Justice Department said.

The federal government claimed that Ridley-Thomas committed crimes that happen “too often by sophisticated, powerful people.”

“The kind to which society, sadly, has become so accustomed that it often goes unreported and rarely yields consequences for the offender but strikes a devastating blow to the integrity of our democratic system.”

Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the L.A. City Council during his trial.

Upon his conviction in the spring, he was expelled.

Ridley Thomas was first elected to the L.A. City Council in 1991 before he served in the state legislature from 2002 to 2008.

He made his return to the city government following two years in the state Senate.

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