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Ex-LA City Councilman Mitch Englander's Trial for Alleged Corruption Coverup Starts May 5

Ex-L.A. City Council member Mitch Englander leaves court on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Libby Denkmann/ LAist)
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Former City Councilman Mitch Englander, who surrendered to federal agents on Monday and faces seven counts of obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI, now has a trial date.

At the federal courthouse in downtown L.A. on Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Walter scheduled Englander’s trial to start May 5. The next hearing in the case will be a status conference on April 20.

Hearings to set a trial date are normally ho-hum affairs. But Judge Walter asked for a lot more information from U.S. Attorneys about the case they’ve built against Englander and, potentially, other city officials.

The most important detail? There are more dominos to fall in the broader corruption investigation into pay-to-play schemes at city hall, particularly related to the Planning and Land Use Management, or PLUM, committee -- the powerful body that can make or break a development project in Los Angeles.

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Here are more tidbits we learned at Thursday's hearing:

  • In court, Asst. U.S. Attorney Mack Jenkins said Englander is just one part of a larger corruption problem — “he is one of the symptoms, clearly.” Jenkins later added, “There are wiretap calls. There are a lot of them.”

  • The FBI had a special agent in Vegas during Englander’s June 2017 trip. Judge Walter asked, did the agent participate in the $24,00 in bottle service that Englander and other city employees allegedly enjoyed during the trip? U.S. Atty Jenkins replied, “He was left out. Apparently the only person (who was left out) that night.”

  • Businessman A -- the FBI's code name for a cooperating witness who is key to this case -- was involved in cabinetry and automated smart home-like devices (like garage door openers). He was attempting to "groom" multiple city officials to improve his business. "He had a product. He wanted to sell it to developers," Jenkins said.

  • The wiretap calls that first alerted the FBI to Englander's suspicious trips were between someone referred to in the grand jury indictment as City Staffer A and another city councilmember (not Englander). Englander is referenced "several times" on the calls, "including his conduct in Las Vegas." But much of that evidence will be redacted from discovery in this case, because it potentially compromises other ongoing investigations.