Angela Powell (Courtesy photo)


At the end of the article entitled, “Will MRT Go To Jail?”, the question of whether MRT – Mark Ridley-Thomas – “should go to prison” was posed.

This can be a difficult question to answer because it is almost impossible to set aside emotion when someone in the community who we know and respect faces time behind bars. Even if they are convicted, we desperately want to believe they are innocent.

Even when we know that they have done wrong, it is still difficult to see them sent to prison.  But if we take a moment to set aside our emotions, the answer is much clearer.

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Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas (Courtesy Photo)

MRT‘s Power

The conduct that led to Ridley-Thomas’ conviction took place during his position as a Board Supervisor for the County of Los Angeles. The Board of Supervisors is the governing body of the County of Los Angeles.

Collectively, the five supervisors are responsible for the 11 million people who live in the County and a $39 billion dollar budget. The County is ranked 11th in population among the 50 United States and is the largest County government in the entire United States.

Before they take office, the supervisors take an oath – a promise – to “well and faithfully” discharge the duties upon which they are about to enter. Ridley-Thomas was found guilty of conspiracy and bribery and thereby violated not just the law, but also his oath, his promise to those who elected him.

The community trusted him to use his power and influence for the good of the community not for his own personal good. He violated that trust. We should be outraged by that fact.

Why Jail?

Punishment, in a public corruption case, is meant to serve as a general deterrence in order to promote respect for the law and protect the public. Those who commit a white-collar offense have time to weigh the cost versus the benefit before they engage in the criminal conduct.

If those we trust think the worst that can happen is a fine and confinement at home (one paid for by the community), will that serve as any form of deterrent?

As the Assistant United States Attorney noted in the sentencing memorandum, Ridley-Thomas is “highly educated, richly supported, and politically connected.” This was not a crime borne out of desperation.

I believe that the only way to send a message is to take away the freedom and liberty guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution – the Constitution in which MRT swore his allegiance.

We need to remove our feelings from this case and understand the fact that MRT disrespected the rule of law and must face the consequences of his actions.


Angela M. Powell is an Attorney at Law/Director with the law firm of Ivie, McNeill, Wyatt Purcell & Diggs.