LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A judge Wednesday rejected a request from the attorney for former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo to move his trial on corruption charges out of Los Angeles County.
KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore reports Superior Court Judge Kathleen A. Kennedy did, however, appear to leave the door open to considering a change of venue request in the future.
Kennedy rejected arguments from Rizzo’s attorney, James W. Spertus, who asked that his client’s trial be moved to Santa Clara or any other Northern California county due to extensive publicity the Bell case has received locally.
“I think that we are in a position where the defense has not met its burden at this point,” Kennedy said, adding that she would “consider a renewal of the change of venue request” if it becomes apparent during jury selection that a fair panel cannot be seated in Los Angeles County.
Rizzo, who is charged on 69 counts, including misappropriating public funds to loaning city money to friends and others, is accused of masterminding a corruption scheme that paid exorbitant salaries to city officials.
Rizzo is awaiting trial in October along with his former assistant, Angela Spaccia, who faces 13 counts.
Spaccia’s attorney, Harlan Braun, said Kennedy’s failure to separate the cases could work against his client.
“She’s subject to a lot of people who hate him, they think he’s a real crook, and we have to sit in the same courtroom with the guy and cooperate with him, so it creates the impression that we’re involved with him,” Braun said.
Jury pool selection is expected to begin in September.
Five former Bell elected officials have already been convicted of misappropriating public funds. Former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and ex-City Council members George Mirabal, Teresa Jacobo, George Cole and Victor Bello are also awaiting a retrial on charges on which the original jury could not reach verdicts.
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