Los Angeles Times

Delay in City Hall corruption trial

Judge pauses bribery case of former L.A. deputy mayor after defense lawyer falls ill.

- By David Zahniser

A federal judge called Monday for a three-week delay in the corruption trial of former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, after learning that Chan’s main lawyer was still in the hospital after an unexpected surgery.

U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said he will seek to resume witness testimony March 27, giving time for Harland Braun, Chan’s lawyer, to recover from what has been described in court as an infection.

Chan, a onetime aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti and former head of the Department of Building and Safety, is accused of participat­ing in a bribery and racketeeri­ng scheme led by former Councilmem­ber Jose Huizar and involving downtown highrise developmen­t projects. Braun, who has been leading the defense team, went to the hospital last week, prompting the cancellati­on of testimony Friday.

Braun’s abrupt absence has created an atmosphere of uncertaint­y around the trial, which has been underway since Feb. 21.

Braun, 80, is a seasoned attorney who has represente­d many high-profile defendants, including actor Robert Blake, director Roman Polanski and Theodore J. Briseno, a former LAPD officer who was twice acquitted of criminal charges in the Rodney King beating case.

The other attorney on Chan’s defense team, Brendan Pratt, earned his law degree in 2021. Also seated at the defense table is Even Chan, the defendant’s daughter-in-law, who described herself as an assistant when approached by The Times.

Pratt told the court Monday that doctors had not determined the source of Braun’s infection. He did not say what type of surgery had been performed, describing it as a “half measure.”

Pratt said he has been relying on Braun’s son for medical informatio­n on the veteran attorney but also had also spoken with Braun directly.

“He sounded very weak, and expressed his concern that he does not know when he will be discharged from the hospital,” Pratt said.

“We still don’t have a diagnosis, do we?” the judge asked minutes later.

“No, we don’t, your honor,” Pratt said.

Prosecutor­s have four witnesses left in the case. Jurors have heard from former Planning Commission­er David Ambroz, mayoral aide Kevin Keller and Richelle Rios, Huizar’s estranged wife, among others.

On Friday, Walter advised Pratt that he would need to familiariz­e himself with the exhibits in the case. The judge told the prosecutio­n he would do everything in his power to “keep this trial on track.”

“I’m definitely not going to mistrial,” he said last week.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States