2-year prison sentence recommended for ex-LA Councilman Mitchell Englander
Federal prosecutors are recommending a two-year prison sentence for former Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, who pleaded guilty to obstructing an investigation into allegations of bribery in City Hall politics, according to court papers obtained Wednesday.
Englander was a “powerful and wealthy Los Angeles city councilmember who swore an oath to serve the interests of his constituents,” prosecutors wrote in sentencing papers filed in Los Angeles federal court. “He swore another oath as a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Police Department to uphold and protect the law. Instead, (he) illicitly cashed in on his status as a purported public servant in casino bathrooms and through VIP bottle service, luxury dinners, and behind hotel room doors.”
Prosecutors wrote in advance of Englander’s Jan. 25 sentencing hearing that over “numerous incidents of escalating corruption and self-preservation, defendant sold out both oaths, cheaply and repeatedly. After resigning in the middle of his term after he was questioned in the instant investigation, defendant successfully parlayed his government service into a lucrative private practice position as a government consultant with a major entertainment company.”
Englander faces up to five years in prison on the single count of scheming to falsify material facts, although prosecutors in Los Angeles agreed not to argue for more than three years as part of his plea deal, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The government is asking U.S. District Judge John F. Walter to impose a two-year prison sentence, three years’ supervised release, a $45,000 fine, and 300 hours of community service. Englander’s defense recommends three years’ probation and a fine of $9,500, a penalty that avoids incarceration due to the defendant’s life history and acceptance of responsibility, the court papers filed Monday show.
After he pleaded guilty in July, Englander issued a brief statement through his attorney, saying he accepts “full responsibility for my conduct … I look forward to continuing to contribute to my community and helping others.”
The ex-councilman represented Council District 12 in the San Fernando Valley from July 2011 until he abruptly resigned three years ago after investigators began asking questions about his activities.
Among his other duties, Englander, 50, served as the council president pro-tempore and was a member of the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which oversees many of the city’s biggest commercial and residential development projects.
According to his plea agreement, Englander, of Santa Monica, schemed to cover up cash payments, costly meals and other gifts offered to him from a businessman who operated companies in Los Angeles relating to big development projects and sought to increase his business opportunities in the city.
Two months after a Las Vegas trip with Englander and others in 2017, the businessman began cooperating with the FBI in an investigation focused on suspected pay-to-play schemes involving Los Angeles public officials — including ex-Councilman Jose Huizar — and made secret recordings of Englander’s interactions with him, federal prosecutors said.
Huizar, the central figure in the six-year probe of City Hall, is charged separately in a 41-count racketeering indictment alleging he accepted $1.5 million in bribes from developers in exchange for his support of downtown building projects. The federal probe into suspected corruption in local politics also ensnared political operatives, lobbyists and the former general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.
Huizar, who represented downtown L.A. and was the chairman of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He faces trial June 22.