LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Robert Rizzo, the former city manager and accused mastermind behind a wide-ranging corruption scandal in the city of Bell, pleaded no contest Thursday to all 69 charges brought against him, officials announced.
The surprise plea – which was an open plea to Judge Kathleen Kennedy and not a negotiated settlement with prosecutors – comes less than a week before jury selection begins in the massive public corruption trial, according to District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
KNX 1070′s Claudia Peschiutta reports Kennedy was expected to sentence Rizzo to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 12 years in state prison in what Lacey noted will be the longest prison term for public corruption since the Public Integrity Division was established in 2000.
Rizzo’s attorney, James Spertus, told KCAL9′s Dave Lopez his client wanted to admit his wrongdoings and is “very remorseful” about his actions.
The trial is still scheduled to begin Monday for Rizzo’s co-defendant, former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia. Spertus said that Rizzo will testify against her.
Rizzo, who was being paid nearly $800,000 annually before he resigned in July 2010, was charged with a variety of schemes that defrauded the city of millions of dollars, including writing his own employment contracts that were never approved by the City Council.
“Although we were prepared to go to trial and felt confident we could convict Mr. Rizzo of all charges, we are pleased he chose to admit his guilt and accept full responsibility for the irreparable harm he caused the people of Bell,” Lacey said in a statement.
But Bell Councilman Nestor Valencia accused Rizzo of taking the easy way out.
“He’s a rat bastard,” Valencia said. “We won’t know what really happened.”
Rizzo is due back in court for sentencing on March 12.