This is a cross-post with the Debaser, a newsletter about LA lawyers and politics.
Los Angeles—After receiving word from the judge that he’s going to prison for 33 months, former LA city lawyer Paul Paradis walked up to the podium and dropped a bombshell allegation: the FBI determined former City Attorney Mike Feuer lied when he said he didn’t okay a 2017 extortion payment to conceal litigation collusion in his office over 5 years ago.
“FBI agent Andrew Civetti testified that Mike Feuer lied to the grand jury,” Paradis told the courtroom. It was a shocking admission that elicited reactions in the gallery during a seemingly routine final sentencing in the LADWP case.
The judge, Stanley Blumenfeld, then cut Paradis off.
“I know what was in his papers,” said the judge, appearing to confirm the allegation.
The sentencing then weirdly carried on like the comment didn’t happen, but that allegation was hard to un-hear.
After the sentencing, Paradis said the determination that Feuer lied was in a government application for a search warrant signed off by a judge. This is almost impossible to verify as that warrant may be part of a trove of discovery documents that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has fought to keep under seal for the past several months.
“It involves extortion and it also involves when Feuer knew about the collusive scheme. He lied about both,” said Paradis.
If the allegations are true, it means the FBI determined Feuer, a candidate for U.S. Congress and the former top law enforcement official in Los Angeles, committed a federal crime, but that the U.S. Attorney’s office didn’t go ahead with charges. I have speculated about this previously.
I asked Jim Ham, a lawyer who has represented Mike Feuer before the State Bar, if Feuer lied to a grand jury and about Paradis’ allegations.
“That’s interesting,” said Ham, before declining to comment and hanging up.
Government prosecutors declined comment as well, deferring comment to the office spokesperson, which also said no comment.
Feuer repeatedly has said he doesn’t remember the extortion meeting and that he’s never taken part of such scheme. He told KNBC in 2022, “That allegation has no merit to it. It is from a confessed felon. I’ve never been involved in any such discussion.” The City Attorney’s Office has denied its involvement for years, calling Paradis a “rogue” actor and a “criminal.”
Paradis, who was hired as outside counsel in 2014 by then City Attorney Feuer, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to accepting a $2.1 million kickback after arranging for a puppet attorney to sue the city of Los Angeles as part of a litigation strategy to shift blame off city leaders over a malfunctioning billing system at the Department of Water and Power. The fake lawsuit allowed the city to run interference on a bunch of other lawsuits it was facing, which were wiped out as a result of its controlled Jones v. city of Los Angeles settlement.
The federal government’s investigation of the LADWP matter is now over without prosecuting any senior City Attorney officials whom government prosecutors themselves said orchestrated the legal mess to run PR on the city’s malfunctioned billing system nearly 10 years ago. Two city lawyers and two LADWP executives took plea deals, but it stopped there.
The extortion payment in question revolves around a December 1, 2017 meeting in which senior officials okayed a hush payment to bury information that would have revealed the city was playing both sides of the fake lawsuit against the city.
“Unwilling to bear the consequences that were likely to end his campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles before his campaign had even officially begun, during a meeting that began in his office at 4:45 pm on December 1, 2017, City Attorney Feuer participated in a meeting with his subordinates, including Thomas Peters, to discuss the extortion threat,” wrote Paradis in a letter to the judge. “During this meeting, Peters was directed to instruct [Paul] Kiesel to pay the extortionist to buy her silence – else Kiesel risked being terminated as Special Counsel to the City in another litigation brought on behalf of the City.”
But government prosecutors never identified or prosecuted the “senior” officials who they themselves said directed the payment.
The preciousness of a mayoral run Feuer was eyeing also had to be protected.
“The collusive scheme was essentially implemented to enable the City Attorney’s office to “change the public narrative” and re-direct public criticism away from elected city officials and toward PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, the consulting firm that had implemented the LADWP’s defective billing system,” said Paradis.
The judge’s sentence was more than the 18 months recommended by prosecutors. Paradis asked for probation only.
In doling out his sentence, Blumenfeld said Paradis had a troubled childhood, but was “blessed” with a sharp legal mind who eventually went down a corrupt path. At this point Paradis began choking up.
“Mr. Paradis was very much at the center of a sophisticated and greedy scheme that reeked havoc on individuals and institutions alike,” said Blumenfeld, whose sentence was more than what prosecutors asked for. “He placed himself there.”
His conduct is related two multiple bribery schemes that involved an opposing lawyer, LADWP executives, and a former LADWP board member.
“There is no individual in this entire sorted affair who bears responsibility to this affair even remotely to Mr. Paradis,” said Blumenfeld.
Paradis’ lawyer, David Scheper, said the judge didn’t give Paradis enough credit for his cooperation with the government and State Bar officials, which was over 4,000 hours. He said the 33 month jail sentence would deter future cooperatives from coming forward.
“Mr. Paradis is literally broke. He is disbarred. The powerful continue to align against him,” said Scheper.
In asking for 18-months of jail time, prosecutors argued in their papers that Paradis “spawned a tidal wave of criminal acts, corruption, and unethical conduct” that infected the City Attorney’s Office, and the Department of Water and Power.
This included bribing an Ohio lawyer who filed the Paradis-drafted lawsuit by installing him with the job of representing ratepayer Antwon Jones and then taking an almost $2.2 million kickback, 20 percent of his fees. The $67 million settlement was executed with no discovery.
At no point did defendant or Ohio Attorney ever disclose to Jones that defendant had been hired to represent the city, whom Jones was suing, in a related matter, prosecutors argued. The Ohio attorney passed off Paradis’ work product as his own, concealing the collusive nature of the litigation from the court and the public.”
Paradis and Landskroner formed shell companies to conceal the $2.17 million payment to Paradis, according to prosecutors.
Things continued. Paradis bribed former LADWP general manager David Wright with a job and a Mercedes in exchange for Wright pushing a $30 million contract for a Paradis-controlled company called Aventador Utility Solutions before the LADWP board in 2017. Prosecutors said Paradis also bribed an LADWP board member by performing legal work for the board member in exchange for the board member’s vote for the Aventador contract. Former LADWP board member Bill Funderburk denied taking the bribe.
In addition, cyber security companies that Paradis had an interest in—Aventador Utility Solutions and Ardent Cyber Solutions—scored millions in no-bid cyber security contracts to help fix DWP’s IT issues.
Meanwhile, nearly 20 attorneys involved with the corruption are under State Bar investigation. But after 4.5 years, no charges have been made public.