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Indicted LA councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas to 'step back' from duties but not resign

Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas who was indicted last week on fraud and conspiracy charges said he will step back from his duties but not resign.

In a letter obtained by the Los Angeles Daily News that Ridley-Thomas sent Monday to members of the Los Angeles City Council, the embattled politician said he will stop participating in meetings but that he hopes to resume them "at the earliest appropriate time."

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Ridley-Thomas was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday for a scheme to gain admission to the University of Southern California's graduate school for his son.

In the letter, the powerful Los Angeles politician said he intends to fight "theses outrageous allegations" and that he expects "to be fully exonerated."

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"I fully appreciate the importance of the council being able to conduct its business with minimal distractions. With that in mind, and with deep respect for each of you, I write to let you know of my intention to immediately step back from participating in both full council and committee meetings," he said.

The letter comes after he announced Friday he has "no intention of resigning."

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"Going forward, I intend to do two things: disprove the allegations leveled at me and continue the work I was elected to do," he said.

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A grand jury on Wednesday charged Ridley-Thomas in a 20-count indictment, accusing him of using his position on the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, which he held until this year, to shift millions of dollars worth of contracts to the USC's School of Social Work in exchange for his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, gaining admission to the school on a full scholarship and a paid professorship position.

He has also been accused of funneling $100,000 in campaign funds through the university to a non-profit his son operated.

Marilyn Louise Flynn, a former professor at USC and dean of its School of Social Work, has also been charged in the scheme.

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Following the announcement of the charges last week, Councilman Joe Buscaino called for Ridley-Thomas to resign.

"These charges tarnish the reputation of the entire LA City Council, and because of that Ridley-Thomas should immediately step down from his position," he said.

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