L.A. Councilman Curren Price pleaded not guilty to five counts of grand theft by embezzlement of government funds, three counts of perjury, and two counts of conflict of interest. This marks Price’s official arraignment after four previous court hearings were postponed, and his legal team challenged the legitimacy of the charges brought against Price.
The defense argued that the five counts of grand theft by embezzlement should be dismissed. The defense also argued that the complaint’s allegations regarding the conflict-of-interest charges lack sufficiency to establish a crime and do not constitute a public offense.
The prosecution asserted that the defense’s legal challenge lacked legal support and was without merit. Deputy District Attorney Casey Higgins told reporters, “I know that various people out in the public and the city council have made those allegations. Quite frankly, if you look at the evidence, this is a long pattern.”
The defense’s legal challenge was ultimately rejected by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Craig Richman.
“Even if our demurrer [motion] was denied, the problems with the prosecution’s case are undeniable,” said Michael V Schafler, one of the attorneys representing Price in a statement.
Nearly 100 residents, members of the clergy, friends, and associates packed the hallway of the Clara Shortridge Foltz criminal courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles in support of the councilman.
“It’s important to show support for someone who supports the community. I am here because he is a strong, confident council member, and we want to make sure that justice is done right. He said he is innocent, and we are here backing him,” said Pastor Ryan Small.
“We don’t want to see our councilmember on the wrong side of justice—what he has done for our community is second to none. We are here to voice our support,” said another one of Price’s supporters.
Price reassured his supporters by saying, “We have done nothing wrong. That’s why your support and your attendance is so very, very important.”
The court scheduled Price’s next appearance for March 1, which a hearing will be set to determine if there is sufficient evidence to proceed to a trial.