LOS ANGELES – Sentencing has been delayed until September for former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar, who pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from a City Hall bribery and money laundering scheme in which he took more than $1.8 million in cash, gambling trips and escorts in exchange for his support of a planned downtown hotel project.
Sentencing was originally scheduled for April 3. However on Monday, U.S. District Judge John Walter delayed the hearing until Sept. 25, after defense attorneys submitted a stipulation saying more time was needed to gather records, prepare a “sentencing video,” and draft Huizar’s sentencing papers.
The document also states that Huizar needs more time because he expects that testimony and other evidence developed at former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan’s trial on corruption charges — which has been placed on hold — might be relevant to his sentencing position, and because he is being represented by federal public defense attorneys who are carrying full caseloads.
Huizar, 54, of Boyle Heights, pleaded guilty in January to racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion. The charges could carry a sentence of up to 25 years behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Huizar’s plea agreement says the ex-councilman agreed not to ask for a prison term of less than nine years. Prosecutors said they will request a 13-year federal prison sentence. Huizar will also be ordered to pay restitution of $1.85 million, the document states.
During the hearing in Los Angeles federal court at which Huizar entered his guilty plea, it took prosecutors nearly 90 minutes to read the factual basis for the plea deal, outlining the intricacies of the pay-to-play scheme that prompted an FBI probe and cast a shadow of corruption over Los Angeles City Hall.
Huizar admitted that, as an elected member of the City Council, he led a criminal enterprise in which he used his position at City Hall to enrich himself and his associates, and unlawfully gave favorable treatment to developers who financed and facilitated bribes and other illicit financial benefits.
In addition to the conspiracy, Huizar’s plea agreement describes instances of honest services wire and mail fraud, traveling interstate in aid of racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, making false statements and attempted tax evasion.
Before Huizar pleaded guilty, he and Chan were set to go on trial together.
Chan’s attorneys are requesting a mistrial on the grounds that lead defense attorney Harland Braun is too ill to return to court in a reasonable amount of time to complete the trial, which began Feb. 21 in downtown Los Angeles.