Attorneys representing former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar have filed a defense motion of dismissal, arguing that his actions do not align with the charges against him outlined in the 41-count federal racketeering indictment.
After being arrested in June 2020, Huizar was initially charged in a 34-count indictment that alleged a pay-to-play scheme to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Huizar allegedly agreed to accept at least $1.5 million in illicit financial benefits in exchange for favorable treatment on real estate projects.
Federal prosecutors also indicted a few developers and other individuals connected to the case in November 2020. In addition to the RICO Act charge, Huizar and his associates were charged with additional counts, including honest services fraud, bribery, tax evasion, money laundering, and others.
“The Federal Investigation has revealed that Huizar operated a pay-to-play scheme in the City, utilizing and commodifying the powerful Council seat of CD-14, whereby he solicited and accepted financial benefits from international (primarily Chinese) and domestic developers with projects in the City in exchange for favorable official actions,” according to a criminal complaint filed against Huizar in June 2020.
Huizar’s attorneys now argue that the federal corruption statutes against Huizar and his associates are overly broad, violating both Supreme Court limits and the statute of limitations, according to City News Service (CNS).
The defense attorneys also argue that Huizar was not involved in a bribery scheme but simply facilitated development in the city. They claim the federal prosecutors treated “virtually everything that Huizar did as an ‘official act’ no matter how informal or disconnected from government power,” according to the motion for dismissal obtained by CNS.
“Huizar’s ability to raise money from developers—who, like other interests, supported him because he supported them—helped to fund not only homelessness initiatives, but the campaigns of some of the most prominent local, state, and national politicians,” said Huizar’s attorneys, reported CNS.
A hearing to discuss the motion is set for Nov. 15 in Los Angeles federal court.
Huizar and his associates, including former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, allegedly “turn[ed] Huizar’s City Council seat into a money-making criminal enterprise,” according to a statement released by Department of Justice.
“Those corrupt relationships were often facilitated by consultants, such as George Chiang, Justin Kim, and lobbyists, who interfaced between Huizar, his “Special Assistant” George Esparza, and developers willing to pay bribes to enrich themselves, keep Huizar in power, and facilitate Huizar’s succession plan,” according to the complaint.
The majority of Huizar’s associates pleaded guilty to federal charges last year, while Huizar pleaded not guilty.
The corruption trial against Huizar is set for May 24, 2022.