Jury Deliberations Begin In City Of Bell Corruption Case
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Jurors began deliberating Friday in the case against six former City of Bell officials charged with corruption.
Bell’s former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and ex-council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, Luis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello are all accused of misappropriating public funds.
Closing arguments concluded at 9:30 a.m. Friday, with the seven-women, five-man jury getting the case approximately an hour later.
Prosecutors allege the six defendants began looting the city treasury in 2006 to pay themselves six-figure salaries.
The trial began on Jan. 24 with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office describing the defendants as greedy in their opening statements.
Prosecutors told jurors the ex-council members stole millions from city coffers by serving on fake boards that often convened for only minutes.
“It’s something that Bell City Council members dreamed up solely for the purpose of stealing money from the people of Bell,” prosecutor Edward Miller said.
During the trial, the defendants testified that they didn’t realize what they were doing was wrong.
The former city officials blame ex-Bell manger Robert Rizzo for orchestrating the scheme.
Rizzo and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia also face fraud charges and will be tried separately.
A trial date has been set for April 1, but Rizzo’s lawyer asked for a change of venue due to pre-trial publicity.