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Former USC dean agrees to plead guilty to bribery scheme with LA city councilmember

The plea deal comes two months before suspended City Councilmember Ridley-Thomas is going on trial in the bribery case.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A former dean of the University of Southern California's School of Social Work has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a bribery scheme with Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas when he served on the LA County board of supervisors in 2018.

Marilyn Louise Flynn will admit to one count of federal program bribery, according to the plea agreement that was filed late Thursday in federal court. Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles won't seek prison time at the time of her sentencing, but probation or home confinement, according to the agreement.

Flynn's plea deal may be bad news for Ridley-Thomas, a veteran LA politician who's scheduled to go on trial in November. They were indicted last year on 20 criminal counts relating to a bribery scheme in which the former county supervisor is accused of throwing his support behind granting various county contracts to USC's School of Social Work in exchange for a series of favors for Ridley-Thomas' son Sebastian.

The younger Ridley-Thomas, a former member of the state Assembly who resigned after being accused of sexual harassment, was allegedly given tuition-free admission to the school, a paid professorship and a mechanism to funnel his father's campaign funds through the university and into a nonprofit the son controlled.

Flynn's plea pertains specifically to that last allegation. At Ridley-Thomas's request in April 2018, Flynn agreed to have USC serve as a conduit for a $100,000 payment from Ridley-Thomas' campaign account to the School of Social Work and to then facilitate a nearly simultaneous $100,000 payment from USC to the United Ways of California for the benefit of the Policy, Research & Practice Initiative, a new nonprofit initiative led by Ridley-Thomas' son.

In exchange, Ridley-Thomas facilitated a meeting for Flynn with an unidentified LA County official to discuss an amendment to an existing contract between the county's Department of Mental Health and the School of Social Work for USC Telehealth services provided by the school's students to patients referred by the county.

Attorneys for Flynn and Ridley-Thomas didn't immediately respond to emails seeking comment after regular business hours.

Ridley-Thomas, who was serving a third and final term as city councilmember when he was indicted, was suspended from the council by his colleagues. In July he sued the city for terminating his salary and benefits.

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