LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The judge presiding over the Bell corruption case kicked a juror off the panel Thursday, citing misconduct, KNX 1070 reported.
KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports Juror No. 3 was dismissed after she said she had done research on the Internet and had spoken to her daughter about the case.
On the fifth day of jury deliberations, two jurors wrote a note to Judge Kathleen Kennedy indicating that they had reached an “impasse” and that “further talks would be useless.”
KCAL9’s Dave Lopez reports that note was followed by a second note from Juror No. 9 stating that one member of the jury had called an attorney.
“I did tell the jury that I contacted a lawyer, but I really didn’t,” said the unidentified juror, who Lopez said is a woman in her 70s. “It was just a bluff. I’ve been coerced and bullied.”
A Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman initially told reporters Thursday that jurors may be divided over whether former city officials stole public funds to pay themselves exorbitant salaries.
The dismissed juror will be replaced with an alternate and the jury will be instructed to start deliberations over, Peschiutta reported.
Former Bell City Council members Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal could face prison on felony charges of misappropriation of public funds.
Hernandez’s attorney Stanley Friedman described the turn of events as unusual.
“When we showed up, we thought it was going to be a mistrial, and there was a second note, which gave the judge an ability to remove a juror,” Friedman said. “Very peculiar…it’s unusual when the juror is excused during the course of deliberation.”
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.
Former officials blame ex-Bell city manager 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 pretrial publicity.
Thursday marked the fifth day of deliberation in the Bell corruption case.