Jose Huizar was just an “evangelist for robust development”: attorney

Former LA city councilman indicted for taking bribes from developers says in a court filing that the payments were honest favors; wants federal charges tossed

Jose Huizar (Getty)
Jose Huizar (Getty)

Jose Huizar, the former powerful Los Angeles city councilman accused of accepting cash and gifts from developers, has issued his first full response to the federal charges against him.

Huizar wants a judge to toss the bribery case, claiming he acted only as an “evangelist for robust development.” The statement was part of a filing Huizar made through his attorney in U.S. District Court, City News Service reported, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Huizar does not dispute he accepted payments from developers, but claims they were entirely legal.

According to the filing, Huizar says federal prosecutors conflated honest favors and First Amendment-protected contributions with bribes, and have reimagined Huizar’s tenure at the City Council “as one permeated by corruption.” He claims it was not.

Developers “supported [Huizar] because he supported them,” according to Huizar’s filing, the report noted. It added that money Huizar raised from developers who had projects with the city “helped to fund not only homelessness initiatives, but the campaigns of some of the most prominent local, state, and national politicians.”

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Huizar also claims the federal corruption statutes brought against him and other defendants are “overbroad” and exceed the U.S. Supreme Court’s limit on those charges, and violate the statute of limitations, according to the report.

In July 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Huizar on charges he accepted $1.5 million in bribes and other gifts from developers and others in exchange for favors.

Huizar’s district covered Downtown L.A. and he was head of the Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee. That position gave him immense decision-making power over projects big and small in the neighborhood and across the city.
While some of his former associates and underlings — and one former councilman — have entered plea deals with federal prosecutors, Huizar has maintained his innocence. A trial was set to begin this summer, but was pushed back to next May.

Federal prosecutors also charged development firm Shenzhen New World Group and an executive of developer Carmel Partners with bribing the former councilman. Carmel agreed to pay a $1.2 million fine to avoid prosecution, and fired the executive. Several other lower-level city officials were also charged.

[LADN] — Dennis Lynch