Former Bell Officials Balk At Plea Deal In Corruption Case
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Four of five former Bell City Council members convicted on corruption charges last year said during a court appearance Friday they need more time to consider a potential plea deal.
KNX 1070′s Pete Demetriou reports former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, George Cole and Victor Bello now have a month to decide whether to accept a plea deal that could offer them a maximum four-year prison term in exchange for their guilty pleas.
Only former Councilman George Cole indicated he was ready to accept the deal, which would allow the council members to avoid a second corruption trial after they were convicted last March on charges of misappropriation of public funds.
Jurors acquitted them on other misappropriation charges and were deadlocked on the remaining misappropriation counts.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy set a court date of April 3 to give the remaining defendants more time to consider the offer.
“It’s an offer that limits the exposure of the client to prison up to four years, and it would allow the judge to individually consider the merits of every defendant,” said attorney Alex Kessel, who represents Mirabel.
If they reject the plea deal, council members could face a potential eight-year prison sentence, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A guilty plea could bring an end to the criminal charges linked to the Bell scandal, which first came to light in 2010 after hefty salaries of the city officials – with part-time council members making nearly $100,000 and city administrator Robert Rizzo earning $1.5 million – were exposed.
According to The Times, if the council members reject the offer, they would likely be ordered to stand trial on the outstanding charges.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)