BELL (CBSLA.com) — Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and five former city council members.
Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello are all accused of misappropriating public funds in a 20-count complaint.
Prosecutors alleged they looted the city treasury to pay themselves six-figure salaries.
In an exclusive interview, Victor Bello told KNX 1070’s John Brooks that the council members had no idea the big salaries were wrong. In fact, the defendants saw the audits being conducted and felt they deserved what they were being paid.
“I’m not guilty. It seems like the DA has a witch hunt against all of us,” Bello said.
“We have over 40 litigations right now because of this whole scandal and the memory of what happened continues to be in our minds and does not go away,” Mayor Ali Saleh said.
About 100 potential jurors are expected to be questioned Tuesday. Opening arguments are not expected until the end of the month.
Former City Manager Robert Rizzo and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia also face charges and will be tried separately.