LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — The former police chief of the corruption-plagued city of Bell told a judge Tuesday he will testify for the first time about his role in the city’s notorious financial disaster.
Randy Adams made the surprise announcement at the courtroom where former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia is on trial on multiple charges, including misappropriation of funds. Testimony was delayed until Wednesday due to a juror’s illness.
Adams, who previously invoked Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, told reporters he wants to tell his whole story because he believes he did nothing wrong.
When Adams was fired in 2010 after his and other officials’ salaries became public knowledge, he was making $457,000 a year to run a department of about 40 people, including about 30 sworn officers. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who oversees a department of about 13,000 employees, was making $307,000 at the time.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy asked Adams if he planned to continue to invoke the Fifth Amendment.
“I will testify,” Adams said firmly.
Outside court, he told reporters: “I always wanted to testify and tell my side of the story,” but he said attorneys advised against it.
“At this time I don’t have attorneys telling me I can’t testify,” Adams said. “I believed from the very beginning I have not done anything wrong. … I honored my employment agreement and did not breach it in any way.”
Adams, 62, now retired, is a key figure in Spaccia’s case and is being called to testify by her lawyer, Harland Braun.
Key evidence against Spaccia includes emails with Adams in which they discussed their large salaries.
In a 2009 email exchange, Spaccia promised him they would enrich themselves as long as they didn’t get too greedy.
“I am looking forward to seeing you and taking all of Bell’s money,” Adams wrote to Spaccia in an email shown in court.
“We will all get fat together,” Spaccia responded. “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. So as long as we’re not hogs all is well.”
Spaccia also told Adams in another email: “We have crafted our agreements carefully so we do not draw attention to our pay.”
Adams was never charged in the case. Authorities didn’t explain that decision. However, five former Bell council members were convicted in March of fraud charges after jurors found the one-time officials paid themselves six-figure salaries for sitting on boards and commissions that did no work. Some charges unresolved by the jury are awaiting another trial.
Spaccia is on trial on 13 counts, including misappropriation of funds and conflict of interest. If convicted, she could face up to 16 years in state prison.
She has pleaded not guilty. Her former co-defendant and boss, disgraced city manager Robert Rizzo, pleaded no contest to 69 corruption charges on the eve of trial. He agreed to testify against Spaccia but has not yet been called as a witness.
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