L.A. bribery trial spotlights City Hall corruption in run-up to election
Judge Dredd | L.A. Law
“What does this have to do with anything?” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti asked at the end of a hearing last week in which he was grilled by investigators from the city, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in an investigation into bribery and corruption in City Hall.
A year and a half earlier, Garcetti — then a City Council member — would have been on the witness stand, explaining to federal prosecutors why he met with then-City Administrator Ed Lee and his lawyer to discuss a possible $10 million donation to Garcetti’s campaign. The meeting happened during an apparent quid pro quo deal: Lee would use his influence to encourage Garcetti to donate the money to “public safety” groups.
In the courtroom of U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, Garcetti testified on Oct. 7, 2018, that he had asked Lee if the money was “okay,” and that Lee said he didn’t know what to do with it.
Then-Mayor Tom Bradley, a council member at the time, told prosecutors that he was aware of the meeting, but said the deal never happened.
Prosecutors, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Merkamp, have never said the money was actually transferred to Garcetti’s campaign. But the agreement has never been disproved in court. Garcetti has said he never would have given it to Garcetti’s campaign, and the FBI has said he never told Lee.
The mayor was one of two council members at the Los Angeles Times in 2010 who called for Lee to resign for corruption, though former council President Herb Wesson disagreed.
Now it is Garcetti, a former state assembly member whom voters elected to be a council member in the city with the largest concentration of minorities in the nation, who appears to be a focus of the FBI’s inquiry.
The case, which has been ongoing for more than 10 months, shows the lengths to which Garcetti and some other council members will go to stay in power.
In the investigation, the FBI is seeking to prove that Garcetti and his former chief