José Huizar lost his bid for a severance from his co-defendant in their trial next month on federal corruption charges, City News Service reported this week.
Citing court papers obtained Wednesday, the news agency said that late on Tuesday U.S. District Judge John Walter denied a motion of severance from his co-defendant requested by Huízar’s legal team. The ruling left in place the Feb. 21 trial date for Huízar and former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan.
Despite missing the deadline to file the severance motion, Huízar had argued that he and Chan should be granted separate trials because Chan’s legal team intended to act as a “second prosecutor” against the former councilmember.
The motion to sever had been supported by Chan’s legal tem. An attorney for the former deputy mayor filed a declaration in which he stated that he intended to argue before the jury that Huízar is guilty and Chan is not “by comparing and contrasting their conduct,” the news source reported.
Huízar claimed that Chan’s “antagonistic defense” would deny him a fair trial, but the judge wrote that the former councilmember had “failed to meet his heavy burden” of demonstrating that his co-defendant’s legal strategy was so prejudicial that it would preclude him from getting an acquittal.
Huízar and Chan are charged with dozens of federal counts, including racketeering conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud.
Huízar –a Boyle Heights native who represented the neighborhood from 2005 to 2020 as councilman for a district that includes most of downtown LA and several Eastside communities– is the central figure in a six-year federal probe of suspected corruption in City Hall. Prosecutors allege that Huízar took more than $1.5 million in cash, gambling trips and escorts in exchange for his support of a planned downton development project. The former councilmember has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The federal judge separated the 34-count indictment against Huízar and his associate into three separate trials – two of which have ended with convictions. In November, real estate developer Shen Zhen New World I LLC was found guilty of paying Huízar $1 million in bribes. In June, developer Dae Yong Lee and his business, 940 Hill LLC, were found guilty of bribery, honest services fraud and obstructing a government investigation for providing $500,000 in cash to Huízar and an assistant for their help in resolving a labor issue related to another downtown development project.