Huizar-approved projects hum along as pol’s trial set for fall

Councilman pled not guilty to charges including money laundering and bribery.

TRD LOS ANGELES /
Aug.August 05, 2020 05:21 PM
Jose Huizar and Los Angeles courthouse at 350 W 1st Street (Getty, Google Maps)
Jose Huizar and Los Angeles courthouse at 350 W 1st Street (Getty, Google Maps)

A trial for Jose Huizar could come sooner than later, but little has emerged about the fate of the developers and real estate projects tied to the biggest Los Angeles real estate corruption scandal in decades.

Federal judge John Walter scheduled a tentative start date of Sept. 29. for the trial of the L.A. City Council member accused of running a criminal enterprise.

But during a two-hour hearing Wednesday, Walter gave prosecutors and Huizar’s attorneys until the end of next week to argue for a different trial date, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Huizar pleaded not guilty Monday to all 34 criminal counts for which he is charged including bribery, honest services fraud, and money laundering.

Huizar isn’t being represented by a phalanx of private lawyers. His private attorney in the matter, Vicki Podberesky of Andrus Podberesky, quit Monday, and Huizar is represented by two public defenders, Charles Snyder and Carel Ale. Huizar, who is accused of taking $1.5 million in bribes from developers in order to fast-track their projects, is paying $3,000 a month for his legal team.

Federal agents arrested Huizar on June 25. He was released on a $100,000 bond, a sum that did not change once additional criminal counts were filed against him last week.

Once a candidate for mayor — and keen to have his wife, Richelle Huizar, replace him on the Council — Huizar’s career is in tatters. He is not welcome at Council meetings, is termed out later this year, and the City Controller terminated his $213,000-a-year salary.

The fate of the developers who allegedly conspired with Huizar is less clear.

Federal prosecutors have not handed down any indictments against developers from Carmel Partners, Shenzhen New World Group, and Shenzhen Hazens, and 940 Hill LLC all who, according to court filings, are linked to showering Huizar with money and gifts from luxury hotel stays to prostitutes.

No developers are known to have lost their jobs, though a Carmel Partners executive was placed on leave.

The city planning commission is expected to vote on stripping Shenzhen Hazen’s redevelopment of the Luxe Hotel of its alcohol and entertainment licenses.

That redevelopment is yet to get out of the ground. But other projects including a 35-story Arts District residential tower by Carmel Partners continue to hum along. The city attorney’s office has stated they are reviewing projects tied to the Huizar scandal.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a complaint against the city that calls to revoke development projects approved by Huizar and Mitchell Englander, a former City Council member who reached a plea deal in March on obstruction of justice charges.

However, the lawsuit does not specify what approvals it wants nixed. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, headed by Michael Weinstein, instead calls for a ban of all projects Huizar greenlighted as planning chair between 2007 and 2018 that run afoul of a 1974 state law regarding conflicts of interests between lawmakers and lobbyists.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in L.A. County Superior Court.


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