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Corruption trial of former L.A. deputy mayor is on hold after defense lawyer falls ill


A federal judge on Monday called for a three-week postponement in the corruption trial of former Los Angeles deputy mayor Raymond Chan after learning that Chan’s lead attorney was still hospitalized following an unexpected surgery.

U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said he will seek to resume testimonies on March 27, giving Harland Braun, Chan’s attorney, time to recover from what has been described in court as an infection.

Chan, a former aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti and former head of the Department of Construction and Security, is accused of participating in a bribery and extortion scheme led by former councilman Jose Huizar that involved high-rise projects in the downtown area. Braun, who led the defense team, went to the hospital last week, canceling testimony Friday.

Braun’s abrupt absence has created a new air of uncertainty around the trial, which has been underway since February 21.

Braun, 80, is a seasoned attorney who has represented many high-profile defendants, including actor Robert Blake, director Roman Polanski and Theodore J. Briseno, a former LAPD officer who was twice acquitted of charges in the Rodney King assault.

The other lawyer on Chan’s defense team, Brendan Pratt, will receive his law degree in 2021. Also on the defense table is Even Chan, the defendant’s daughter-in-law, who described herself as an assistant when approached by The Times.

Pratt told the court Monday that doctors had not determined the source of Chan’s infection. He did not say what kind of surgery was performed, describing it as a “half measure”. Pratt said he relied on Braun’s son for medical information on the veteran lawyer, but he had also spoken directly to Braun.

“He sounded very weak and expressed concern that he doesn’t know when he will be released from the hospital,” Pratt said.

“We still don’t have a diagnosis, do we?” the judge asked minutes later.

“No, we don’t, Your Honor,” Pratt said.

Prosecutors have four more witnesses in the case. Jurors have heard from former planning commissioner David Ambroz, mayoral assistant Kevin Keller, and Richelle Rios, Huizar’s estranged wife, among others.

On Friday, the judge advised Pratt that he should familiarize himself with the documents in the case. The judge told the prosecution he would do everything he could to “keep this trial on track.”

“I’m definitely not going to a mistrial,” he said last week.

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