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prosecutors failed us in ladwp
they haven't gone after the senior members of the la city attorney's office who directed the extortion payment that concealed ladwp litigation collusion. we don't even know their names.
It’s looking like it’s over, and we don’t know who was really responsible.
A year and a half after convicting the last city official in the LADWP scandal, prosecutors in the Central District of California seem okay with allowing the ending of this saga be not about justice, but about injustice. They’ve prosecuted LADWP officials, but it’s what happened inside the city attorney’s office that’s gone unresolved.
While prosecutors have gone after city attorneys down the food chain, signaling the appearance of justice, they have not brought to heel those in charge who actually called the shots. It’s a soft touch for a group that ambitiously calls itself the Public Corruption Unit. Prosecutors usually love government corruption cases because it gets them a lot of media attention, or a ticket to a nice private gig. Here it’s like they were delivered the case of their careers and said, “no thanks, that’s too much justice.”
That lack of going all the way became pretty clear following the recent sentencing of former LA city attorney official Thomas Peters. Peters pleaded guilty to ordering the hush money payment that concealed the fact that the city of LA was playing both sides of the high-profile LADWP billing lawsuit. Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Peters to 18 months in jail, well below probation’s recommendation of 41 months in jail. But the judge, a serious professional named Stanley Blumenfeld, thought that was too much, and instead told Peters to stay inside his Pacific Palisades home for 9 months. And while the judge expressed that many lawyers involved with the collusive lawsuit deserve to be investigated, he basically signaled with Peters’ ruling that if prosecutors do bring anyone else before him, he’ll give them a lite sentence. He’s the same judge who let a former U.S Congressman convicted of lying to the FBI avoid jail time. These people live very different lives from the rest of us, and they look out for their own.
Meanwhile, prosecutors weren’t all that convincing in trying to change the judge’s mind. They never really were in the first place. They actually seemed kind of over it. In the halls after the sentencing, their coy smiles telegraphed a sort of surrender. When reporters asked for comment, one prosecutor said to go talk to State Bar investigators, who now are apparently the last hope for any kind of so-called justice. The State Bar of California’s Chief Trial Counsel, George Cardona, used to work in the same office that prosecuted LADWP. They know each other.
But it all starts with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It could have gone harder, but it didn’t. While Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Har, who seems really good at her job, told the judge Peters “was not the architect” of the collusive Jones v. City of LA suit, her office won’t even say who that architect was.
To recap: Peters was pressuring then-outside counsel Paul Kiesel to take care of the extortion situation, which consisted of Kiesel’s former employee asking for almost $1 million in exchange for documents revealing LADWP collusion. If he didn’t take care of it, Peters said he would advocate for Kiesel’s firing from his city role, according to prosecutors. Kiesel ultimately paid $800,000, which bought the city another year.
By the public corruption unit’s own words in court filings, the extortion scheme didn’t start or end with Peters. As they’ve written, Peters was acting on orders from “senior members of the City Attorney’s Office” who “directed [Mr. Peters] to take care of the situation.” Will we ever even know who that was, let alone see them be brought to justice? As of now, it’s looking like we won’t. All we can do is speculate. It was during a Dec. 1, 2017 meeting in which prosecutors say senior members told Peters to take care of the extortion situation. And thanks to a Public Records Act request, a Dec. 1, 2017 meeting which discussed the billing litigation included city officials Joseph Brajevich, Peters, Feuer’s chief of staff Leela Kapur, and Feuer himself.
After that meeting with officials—again this is all straight from prosecutors themselves—Peters texted Kiesel’s co-counsel, Paul Paradis, relaying that senior leadership “was not firing anyone at this point” in light of the extortion situation, however they were concerned about it.
But prosecutors left something out. The full text from Peters to Paradis says, emphasis mine, “Mike is not firing anyone at this point. But he is far from happy about the prospect of a sideshow.”
I’ll let you decide who “Mike” is. That text has been filed as an exhibit in Paradis’ bankruptcy proceedings.
That extortion scheme concealed a lot of things, but at the very minimum it shows officials at the highest levels knew something shady was happening, and it goes against the narrative from Feuer’s office that he didn’t know about the collusion or remember that 12/1/17 meeting.
We’re meant to believe that justice was served, and to ignore the bigger picture. Peters was deemed expendable at the desired time by his masters at the city attorney’s office when he “resigned” because of referral fees his office was “not aware of.” The timing was extremely questionable as it happened shortly after the scandal broke in the news. The office was looking for sacrificial lambs, and they put Peters under the guillotine.
Meanwhile, the real winner so far are the high-end attorneys who’ve come to manage this mess. Gibson Dunn, who has alumni planted on all sides of this case, has churned fees for years. Eric George’s firm has been paid $11 million so far under a city contract that calls for up to $20 million. The U.S. Attorney’s Office got a few cool headlines. Mike Feuer, endorsed by Mayor Karen Bass, continues to invisibly run for U.S. Congress while under State Bar investigation.
Paul Paradis and Thom Peters committed crimes and owned up to the consequences. But is the Public Corruption Unit fully doing its job? 🧐