Bell Corruption Verdicts: Ex-Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 4 Council Members Found Guilty
'The Bell Eight' by Ted Soqui for LA Weekly
The jury in the corruption trial of six ex-city leaders of Bell found former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and ex-council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, Victor Bello, and George Cole guilty of misappropriation of public funds today. Former Councilman Luis Artiga was found not guilty on all counts.
The six were accused of padding their salaries, which amounted to six figures, by taking payment for sitting on do-nothing city boards:
Hernandez was found guilty on five counts and not guilty on another five. Likewise the four other defendants saw at least one guilty verdict, but many not-guilty decisions as well. The sixth suspect, Artiga, got off scot-free.
Former city manager Robert Rizzo, the alleged mastermind of the corruption, and former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia, were being tried separately.
The former mayor and five ex-council members were accused of using their membership on city boards to pad their wallets. The Community Housing Authority, the Surplus Property Authority, the Public Financing Authority and the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority allegedly rarely met.
Bell residents, up-in-arms, by Ted Soqui for LA Weekly
Prosecutors said the defendants did the deeds mostly between January 2006 and July 2010.
[Added at 12:32 p.m.]: The jury was undecided on 10 additional counts. City News Serviced said the panel was deadlocked, though it wasn't yet clear if the jury could not reach a verdict or needed additional time to deliberate.
[Added at 8:59 p.m.]: City News Service breaks down the counts for those who saw guilty verdicts:
Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal were each convicted of five counts of misappropriation of
public funds and acquitted of five others. Former Councilman George Cole was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others, while former Councilman Victor Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.
The jury was supposed to reconvene and continue deliberating over those 10 outstanding counts in the morning.
[Update at 3:55 p.m. Thursday]: The judge today declared a mistrial on the remaining counts after jurors couldn't come to a consensus. Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times tweeted that 9 out of 12 jurors favored guilty verdicts. But that's not enough in a system that requires unanimity.
So now the question is, will there be a retrial on those counts? We'll be watching.
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