By FRED SHUSTER
LOS ANGELES – Former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan is asking a federal judge to declare a mistrial in his public corruption case which was placed on hold in the second week of trial after the defendant’s attorney fell ill and was hospitalized, according to court papers obtained Wednesday.
A defense motion filed in Los Angeles federal court late Tuesday states that Chan’s sole trial counsel, Harland Braun, “is now physically unable to participate in the defense for at least several months.”
A hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning in downtown Los Angeles before U.S. District Judge John Walter to discuss the situation.
Braun had been representing Chan for about four years in connection with the case and met with the defendant at least weekly for the past 2 1/2 years in preparation for the trial which began Feb. 21, the filing states.
On March 2, Braun returned to his office after the day’s trial proceedings where his adult son, Adam, with whom he shares an office suite, found the attorney gravely ill, the motion says.
Emergency services were called, and Braun was taken by ambulance to the nearby UCLA Medical Center where he was admitted for treatment. Soon after, the judge and prosecutors were informed of Braun’s unexpected illness, and a three-week trial recess was granted.
During the interim, Braun underwent emergency surgery and was hospitalized for 10 days, the motion states.
According to recent updates from Braun’s medical team, the defense lawyer will be unable to further participate in the Chan case, as he faces an “indeterminate but significant” period of further medical treatments and convalescence, and his eventual return to the practice of law — albeit in a gradual, or perhaps, even limited capacity — will be at least three months down the line, if not longer, the filing says.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said prosecutors would respond in writing in a court filing.
Chan is facing a dozen criminal counts, including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, honest services fraud and lying to federal agents for his alleged role in a complex pay-to-play scheme that prosecutors say soaked developers for millions of dollars in exchange for getting their building projects approved at City Hall.
Walter initially placed the trial on hold until March 27 while Braun recovers from the undisclosed illness.
The 80-year-old Braun is one of the city’s best-known criminal defense attorneys. His clients have included Roman Polanski, Roseanne Barr, John Landis, Gary Busey, Chris Farley and others.
Chan, 66, of Monterey Park, is accused of being a key member of what prosecutors dubbed the Council District 14 enterprise, a conspiracy in which former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar — assisted by others — unlawfully used his office to give favorable treatment to real estate developers who financed and facilitated bribes and other illicit benefits.
Huizar pleaded guilty in January in Los Angeles federal court to felony charges for using his powerful position at City Hall to enrich himself and his associates, and for cheating on his taxes. He faces multiple years behind bars at sentencing on April 3.
A deputy mayor who oversaw economic development for ex-Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 and 2017, Chan is charged with allegedly arranging indirect bribe payments to city officials by lining up employment contracts for the officials’ relatives.
During his opening statement, Braun said his client was an innocent public servant who got swept up in the case by overly ambitious federal prosecutors. He promised that Chan would take the stand to refute all allegations.
Chan worked for the city for almost three dozen years, serving at one point as the top executive overseeing the Department of Building and Safety, which reviews building plans and inspects construction projects.
Before Huizar signed his plea deal, he and Chan were scheduled to go on trial together.