A federal judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the bribery prosecution of former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan after doctors confirmed his attorney needs months to recover from a recent hospitalization.
U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter instructed Chan to find a new lawyer to replace Harland Braun, whose March 2 hospitalization brought the trial to a halt while prosecutors were still presenting their case to the jury.
Braun, 80, one of the city's best-known criminal defense attorneys, spent more than two years preparing for Chan's highly complex trial.
After reviewing medical information about Braun that was filed under seal, Walter said it was clear that he could not resume trial work until at least August or September.
By then, Walter said, jurors would be unlikely to have clear recollections of all the testimony they had heard in February and March.
Chan requested six weeks to find a new attorney, but Walter agreed to give him only 11 days.
Chan is the last defendant to face trial in a corruption scandal that exposed pervasive graft in the city's byzantine process for approving real estate projects in downtown Los Angeles. Prosecutors say he was a central player in a sprawling extortion racket led by former L.A. City Councilmember José Huizar.
Huizar has admitted taking more than $1.5 million in payoffs from developers.
Political consultants, lobbyists and a top City Hall aide have pleaded guilty to felonies they committed as part of Huizar's payoff schemes. Some were expected to testify against Chan.
The prosecution's evidence includes many surreptitiously taped recordings of conversations among the players.
Another former council member, Mitchell Englander, pleaded guilty in a related case in 2020 and has already been released from prison.
Prosecutors say Chan served as a go-between who facilitated payoffs to Huizar and also accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes himself.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Mack Jenkins told Walter that prosecutors would lay out their full case — including some freshly obtained evidence — for Chan's new attorney, a step that could lead to a plea deal.
But Braun had been adamant that Chan was innocent. He told the jury to expect the former deputy mayor to take the witness stand to defend himself.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.