A 20-story tower. An alcohol box with $100 costs. The very first trial in the Huizar situation starts

It was just one of the much more evocative scenes defined by prosecutors as component of their Town hall corruption investigation: A political assistant comes to the residence of a Los Angeles city councilman and also presents him with a liquor box full of money.

George Esparza informed district attorneys that in 2017, he took the Don Julio tequila box packed with $100 bills to the Boyle Heights residence of his manager, then-Councilman Jose Huizar. Esparza stated the councilman originally told him to hide the money as well as later on harassed him for the cash.

Currently, the Bel-Air business owner accused of providing that cash money is encountering his day in court, in the very first of 3 tests that compose the stretching bribery and racketeering instance against Huizar.

A liquor box filled with cash

George Esparza, who was an assistant to previous Councilman Jose Huizar, has told district attorneys that he provided a liquor box full of cash to his

employer's home in 2017. (Department of Justice)

Legal representatives for both sides supplied opening up statements Tuesday in case against Dae Yong Lee, a real estate programmer implicated of paying $500,000 to guarantee that Huizar would remove the means for a 20-story domestic tower planned by his minimal responsibility company, 940 Hill.

Lee, likewise called David Lee, has pleaded innocent to bribery, cord fraud and one count of blockage of justice. He is the bulk owner of 940 Hill, which is also an offender in the event.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Cassie Palmer told the jury that Lee provided the money to "grease the wheels" of local government. At the time, Lee had been facing an obstacle to his job from a union team, which intimidated to trigger major delays and also cost 10s of numerous bucks, she stated.

"The offenders took a path that was less expensive, that was faster, that was guaranteed," she claimed.

Ariel Neuman, the attorney for Lee, told jurors that his client is a victim, somebody who thought the $500,000 he had supplied was mosting likely to a professional doing genuine consulting job. In their zeal to tackle public corruption, government district attorneys "swept up a person that had no suggestion" that Huizar, Esparza as well as the others were participated in a criminal business, he said.

Prosecutors are going to present an "ugly, hideous tale" concerning corruption, Neuman claimed. "None of it has anything to do with Mr. Lee."

The test of another programmer in case, Shenzhen New World I, is scheduled for October. Huizar's trial is established for February.

District attorneys state Huizar was in charge of an enormous system in which he and others got rewarding supports from programmers for sign-offs on their midtown skyscraper projects. Huizar has pleaded innocent to racketeering, bribery as well as various other costs.

Lee's company recommended its domestic high-rise seven years ago, submitting an application to construct greater than 200 apartment or condos at Olympic Boulevard and also Hillside Road, in the South Park area of downtown. The preparation department supplied its initial approval of the project in 2016.

Weeks later, Creed LA, a team representing construction trade unions, filed an appeal of that decision, increasing the opportunity that the job would need a vote of the Common council.

Lee after that turned to consultant Justin Kim for assistance in eliminating the union difficulty. Kim, a real estate appraiser, was a fundraising event for Huizar who knew Town hall-- and had actually served at one point on the city's effective planning compensation.

District attorneys claimed Kim, while helping Lee, served as a liaison for Lee and also the council office, setting up numerous "cash declines." Kim picked up cash from Lee as well as handed a part of it over to Esparza, who was expected to get it to Huizar, prosecutors claimed.

Creed LA-- which stands for plumbings, electric employees and also other construction professions-- dropped its difficulty of the 940 Hill job in March 2017.

Kim as well as Esparza pleaded guilty to corruption fees in 2020, confessing they were participants in a bribery scheme fixated Lee's job.

In his plea contract, Kim claimed he maintained a $100,000 repayment that was meant for Huizar in July 2017.

Neuman, the attorney for Lee, told jurors that his client thought Kim was simply bargaining a resolution to the challenge submitted by Creed LA, additionally known as the Coalition for Liable Equitable Economic Growth. District attorneys have actually pinned their instance on Kim-- "a liar and also a thief" who has continuously changed his story, Neuman stated.

"This situation has to do with a guy, my customer, who made the mistake of trusting the incorrect individual," he stated.

Images of a portion of a conversation between Justin Kim, George Esparza and David Lee.

< img alt="Photos of a portion of a conversation between Justin Kim, George Esparza and David Lee. "src ="https://s3.fr-par.scw.cloud/yivesites-storage-4.yivesites.com/2452879/alabama-real-estate.jpg"> A display shot of a graphic developed by federal district attorneys that reveals a sms message exchange between realty professional Justin Kim as well as George Esparza, an aide to then-Councilman Jose Huizar.

Neuman said he plans for the protection to call as a witness Jeff Modrzejewski, Creed LA's executive director. The defense also plans to call City Hall powerbroker Chris Modrzejewski, brother of Jeff Modrzejewski.

Chris Modrzejewski plans to insist his fifth Change right to stay quiet, according to a current filing in the event. A rep of Chris Modrzejewski decreased to comment when reached by The Times.

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On Tuesday, district attorneys began examining FBI Unique Agent Andrew Civetti, who has been deeply involved in the case as well as described his job extracting info from cellular phones belonging to Esparza, Huizar's unique aide. They additionally revealed jurors pictures of the alcohol box and heaps of $100 costs taken by Esparza.

Prosecutors claimed Esparza maintained extensive notes on the bribe money he was delivering.

At one point, he took a picture of a napkin on which he created the words "Granting cash money to centimeters Huizar 2/10/2017," according to one recent declaring.

Esparza was "a specifically meticulous record keeper," Palmer claimed.