Judge Asks for Details of Attorney's Illness That Caused Chan Trial Recess

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge Thursday declined to grant former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan's request to declare a mistrial in his public corruption case without more information about the illness that caused the defendant's lead attorney to be hospitalized and the trial recessed.

U.S. District Judge John Walter told Chan's legal team to file medical information under seal and return to court Wednesday to discuss the matter further, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Proceedings in the case were placed on hold in the second week of the trial, which began Feb. 21.

A defense motion filed this week stated that Chan's counsel, Harland Braun, "is now physically unable to participate in the defense for at least several months."

Braun had been representing Chan for about four years and is the only attorney capable of leading the defense, the filing said.

On March 2, Braun returned to his office after the day's proceedings where his adult son, Adam, with whom he shares an office suite, found the attorney gravely ill, according to the motion.

Emergency services were called, and Braun was taken by ambulance to the nearby UCLA Medical Center where he was admitted for treatment. Soon after, judge and prosecutors were informed of Braun's unexpected illness, and a three- week trial recess was granted.

During the interim, Braun underwent emergency surgery and was hospitalized for 10 days, the motion said.

According to recent updates from  Braun's medical team, the defense lawyer will be unable to further participate in the Chan case, that he faces an "indeterminate but significant" period of further medical treatments and convalescence, and that his eventual return to the practice of law -- albeit in a gradual, or perhaps, even limited capacity -- will be at least three months down the line, if not longer, the filing says.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said prosecutors would respond in writing in a court filing.

Chan is facing a dozen criminal counts, including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, honest services fraud and lying to federal agents for his alleged role in a complex pay-to-play scheme that prosecutors say soaked developers for millions of dollars in exchange for getting their building projects approved at City Hall.

Walter initially placed the trial on hold until March 27 while Braun recovers from the undisclosed illness.

The 80-year-old Braun is one of the city's best known criminal defense attorneys. His clients have included Roman Polanski, Roseanne Barr, John Landis, Gary Busey, Chris Farley and others.

Chan, 66, of Monterey Park, is accused of being a key member of what prosecutors dubbed the Council District 14 enterprise, a conspiracy in which former Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar -- assisted by others -- unlawfully used his office to give favorable treatment to real estate developers who financed and facilitated bribes and other illicit benefits.

Huizar pleaded guilty in January in Los Angeles federal court to felony charges for using his powerful position at City Hall to enrich himself and his associates, and for cheating on his taxes. He faces multiple years behind bars at sentencing on April 3.

A deputy mayor who oversaw economic development for ex-Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016 and 2017, Chan is charged with allegedly arranging indirect bribe payments to city officials by lining up employment contracts for the officials' relatives.

During his opening statement, Braun said his client was an innocent public servant who got swept up in the case by overly ambitious federal prosecutors. He promised that Chan would take the stand to refute all allegations.

Chan worked for the city for almost three dozen years, serving at one point as the top executive overseeing the Department of Building and Safety, which reviews building plans and inspects construction projects.

Before Huizar signed his plea deal, he and Chan were scheduled to go on trial together.

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