LOS ANGELES — After repeated delays, the preliminary hearing for former Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford’s criminal corruption trial is on hold for a week after nearly a week of proceedings.
The hearing, to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial, began in a Los Angeles court room on Sept. 4. After six days of hearings, the proceedings are on hold until Monday.
Representatives with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office did not give a reason for the delay.
Ledford faces five felony counts in the case, in which he and two co-defendants are accused of conspiring to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in NASA funds from a Palmdale-based nonprofit educational organization the co-defendants ran.
Prosecutors allege Ledford was paid $60,000 a year without performing any substantial work for the organization, the AERO Institute.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Aug. 22, 2018, more than a year after they were initially filed on June 21, 2017, as the arraignment was postponed six times. Additional charges were filed in January 2018.
The preliminary hearing was also postponed five times until beginning on Sept. 4.
Ledford’s co-defendants, former AERO Institute executive director Susan Miller and former AERO Institute president and city consultant Kimberly Shaw, also pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
He was charged originally with criminal conspiracy, conflict of interest in voting in 2012 to award a seven-year city contract worth up to $3.9 million to Shaw, and three counts of perjury for allegedly failing to report income from the institute on financial disclosure statements. In January 2018, an additional misdemeanor charge was filed against Ledford, accusing him of using an official position for personal gain.
The amended complaint accuses him of voting in 2016 to sell the building containing the Palmdale and Antelope Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce offices to the institute, which prosecutors say was secretly paying him more than $60,000 a year.
Shaw, a Yorba Linda resident, and Miller, of Las Vegas, were charged originally with conspiracy, grand theft by embezzlement of public funds and misappropriation of public funds.
In January 2018, additional charges were filed against Shaw, saying she failed to disclose on AERO Institute tax forms for the 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 tax years that the institute paid her consulting company more than $100,000 in 2012, more than $150,000 in 2013, more than $150,000 in 2014 and more than $150,000 in 2015.
According to the original criminal complaint filed by the District Attorney’s office, Shaw was a paid consultant to the AERO Institute, first under the name Shaw and Associates and then, starting in March 2013, as RL&M Management. RL&M Management was paid $12,581.67 monthly by the institute, or $150,980 a year.
Based on payment amounts alleged in the initial criminal complaint, Ledford was paid approximately $500,000 between August 2009 and September 2014 through Miller’s companies, whose income the complaint said came almost entirely from the institute and between September 2014 and May directly from the institute.
Miller’s companies received more than $821,000 between August 2009 and September 2014 from the institute, according to payment amounts alleged in the initial criminal complaint.
The total amount paid to Shaw’s companies could not be calculated from the criminal complaint, which does not say when she began receiving payments from the institute, but the amount was at least $629,000 between March 2013 and June 2017, according to the initial complaint.