Los Angeles Times
Mistrial sought in City Hall bribery case
Former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan has asked a federal judge to declare a mistrial in his federal corruption case, saying his attorney is no longer medically capable of representing him in the case.
U.S. District Judge John F. Walter declined to grant the request Thursday, saying he can’t make a decision without more specifics on the illness of Chan’s attorney Harland Braun, whose March 2 hospitalization brought the trial to a halt.
Walter ordered Chan’s legal team to file medical documentation under seal by Sunday and return to court Wednesday to discuss the matter further.
Chan, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, racketeering, wire fraud and making false statements, said in a court filing that Braun, 80, will be unable to represent him “for at least several months.”
“Attempting to proceed with the trial when Harland Braun is physically unable to participate in my defense would be putting me on trial without my lone trial attorney, without the counsel of my choice, and without effective assistance of counsel,” Chan said in a declaration.
Braun has been Chan’s lawyer for about four years. He fell ill just over a week into the trial, prompting the judge to order a three-week delay in witness testimony.
Chan, in his filing, said his other lawyer, Brendan Pratt, has been serving on the defense team only in a “limited support and observational learning role.” Pratt “has no trial experience, and has never practiced in federal or
state court without supervision,” the filing states.
Pratt lacks the legal expertise to safeguard Chan’s constitutional rights, in a case that could result in “decades of imprisonment,” he said.
After Braun fell ill, he was taken to UCLA Medical Center, where he underwent surgery. Braun was suffering from an infection that affected his organs, according to Pratt, and recovery is expected to take at least three months.
In a previous hearing, Walter said he was opposed to a mistrial, suggesting at one point that Pratt familiarize himself with the trial exhibits. He also told attorneys he would do everything in his power to keep the case on track.
The prosecution has four witnesses remaining in the case, which is expected to be the last trial stemming from a federal investigation that exposed a City Hall extortion ring run by former L.A. Councilmember Jose Huizar. In January, Huizar pleaded guilty to racketeering and tax evasion, admitting that he shook down real estate developers for more than $1.5 million in bribes on downtown building projects.