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Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huízar was arrested Tuesday as part of an ongoing federal investigation into corruption at City Hall, and the City Council began the process to have him removed from office.
Huízar’s arrest was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Huízar is being charged with “conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act,” according to a Department of Justice press release. The federal charge, which alleges the councilman agreed to accept at least $1.5 million in illicit funds, carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
The racketeering charges stem from a broad pay to play scheme in which he allegedly took cash bribes and campaign donations in exchange for help in getting large downtown development projects through the city’s complex approval process.
The scheme is described in a 100 page plus criminal complaint that describes Huizar’s so-called “CD-14 Enterprise”:
Huízar was arrested at his Boyle Heights home at around 8:15 am. He made a court appearance Tuesday afternoon, but was not asked to enter a plea, according to another Department of Justice press release.
The judge ordered his release on a $100,000 bond, and he was set to be released in the afternoon. A preliminary hearing was set for July 14, with an arraignment scheduled for July 20.
Huizar’s attorneys, Mary Carter Andrues and Vicki Podberesky, said the council member “intends to respond to the government’s allegations in court.”
“He firmly believes that these matters should be handled in a court of law and not in the media. Councilman Huízar requests that the press respect the privacy of his family and children,” they said in a written statement provided to KPCC/LAist.
A foretold arrest
Huízar’s arrest was largely anticipated, after several of his associates were charged with taking part in illicit deals with the councilman. In plea deals, federal prosecutors referred to a powerful councilman that fit Huízar’s profile.
Shortly after the arrest, City Council president Nury Martínez released a statement calling the allegations against Húizar “horrendous and disgusting” and announcing that the Boyle Heights politician would be removed from office.
“Effective today, I will begin the process of removing him from office so that the good people of Council District 14 and the City of Los Angeles will be fairly and honorably represented,” the statement read. “That is our duty and we must do it.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the City Council voted 14-0 to suspend Huízar, but the councilman can’t be officially removed from his position unless he pleads or is found guilty.
For weeks, several politicians and community leaders have called for Huízar to resign, a move that would allow former state Senator Kevin de León, who has already won the election to succeed Huízar, to take office earlier than when he’s supposed to in December.
On Tuesday, the Mayor of Los Angeles and several city council members issued statements condemning Huízar’s actions. Mayor Eric Garcetti released the following statement:
“Councilmember Huízar has violated the trust of the people who elected him. I have zero tolerance for this criminal behavior and corruption. He should be immediately removed from the City Council and replaced by his democratically-elected successor to ensure that the 14th Council District has the representation it deserves.”
“I am in discussions with 14th District Councilmember-elect Kevin de León on what is the best path forward for Council District 14,” Council President Martinez said in a statement following the Council vote:
Tuesday, De León issued the following statement:
“I have spoken with City Council President Martinez and am working closely with her and staff to ensure CD 14 has full representation in City Hall as soon as possible.”
This post was updated on June 24 with new details. This developing story will be updated.
Read more about José Huízar’s arrest:
Many in Boyle Heights took to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to express their feelings on the disgraced councilman