LA corruption trial of Raymond Chan remains on hold

Judge declines to declare mistrial for former deputy mayor accused in bribery scheme

Former L.A. Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan 350 West 1st Street in Los Angeles
Former L.A. Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan 350 West 1st Street in Los Angeles (Getty, Google Maps)

A judge has postponed a defense request for a mistrial in the corruption case against former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, who claims his attorney is too ill to return to court.

U.S. District Judge John Walter on Wednesday asked for more information on attorney Harland Braun’s medical condition and scheduled a status conference for April 11, City News Service reported in the Los Angeles Daily News.

The judge indicated that the jury should return to the Downtown Los Angeles courthouse on April 24, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Last week, the judge declined to grant Chan’s request to declare a mistrial in his corruption case without learning what sent attorney Harland Braun to the hospital. Proceedings in the case were placed on hold in the second week of the trial, which began Feb. 21.

Chan, 66, of Monterey Park, is facing a dozen criminal counts, including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, honest services fraud and lying to federal agents for his alleged role in a complex pay-to-play scheme 

Prosecutors say he soaked developers for millions of dollars in exchange for getting their building projects approved at City Hall.

A defense motion argued that a mistrial was necessary based upon Chan’s constitutional right to his chosen counsel and because Braun was rendered “physically unable to participate in the defense for at least several months.”

Federal prosecutors urged Walter to deny a mistrial. Allowing Braun to resume the trial upon his recovery “best protects defendant’s right to chosen counsel,” according to the government.

Prosecutors also say the record regarding Braun’s medical condition — the details of which have not been disclosed to the public — does not support a finding that he is unable to complete the trial, and accommodations such as shorter trial days can be made so the attorney can comfortably carry out the defense.

The jury is time-qualified until May 30. Since the start of trial, the government has completed about 75 percent of its case-in-chief, with five witnesses remaining, prosecutors said.

Braun has represented Chan for four years and is the only attorney capable of leading the defense, the defendant insists.

On March 2, Braun returned to his office after the day’s proceedings where his law partner-son Adam, with whom he shares an office suite, found the attorney gravely ill, according to the motion.

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Emergency services were called, and Braun was taken by ambulance to nearby UCLA Medical Center, where he was admitted. Soon after, the judge and prosecutors were informed of Braun’s unexpected illness, and the trial recess was granted.

During the interim, Braun underwent emergency surgery and was hospitalized for 10 days, the defense said.

According to recent updates from Braun’s medical team, the defense lawyer faces an “indeterminate but significant” period of treatment and recovery, and his eventual return to his practice will be gradual or perhaps limited, Chan’s filing states.

The 80-year-old Braun is one of the city’s best known criminal defense attorneys. His clients have included Roman Polanski, Roseanne Barr, John Landis, Gary Busey, Chris Farley and others.

Chan is accused of being key to what prosecutors have dubbed the Council District 14 enterprise – a conspiracy led by former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar, who used his office to give favorable treatment to real estate developers who financed and facilitated bribes and other illicit benefits.

Huizar pleaded guilty in January to felony charges for using his position at City Hall to enrich himself and his associates, and for cheating on his taxes. He faces years behind bars at a sentencing on April 3.

Chan, a deputy mayor who oversaw economic development for ex-Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 and 2017, is charged with allegedly arranging indirect bribe payments to city officials by lining up employment contracts for the officials’ relatives.

In his opening statement, Braun said his client was an innocent public servant who got swept up in the case by overly ambitious federal prosecutors. He promised that Chan would take the stand to refute all allegations.

Chan worked for the city for more than 30 years, serving at one point as the top executive overseeing the Department of Building and Safety, which reviews building plans and inspects construction projects.

Before Huizar signed his plea deal, he and Chan were scheduled to go on trial together. Two previous trials arising out of the 2020 indictment against Huizar, Chan and various associates have ended in convictions.

— Dana Bartholomew

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