Five of so-called Bell Six convicted

March 20, 2013 at 7:36 PM
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LOS ANGELES, March 20 (UPI) -- A jury Wednesday found five of the so-called Bell Six -- former Bell, Calif., City Council members accused of corruption -- guilty on multiple counts.

The panel then was sent home for the day after it was unable to reach a verdict on remaining counts.

Luis Artiga was the only defendant acquitted of each of the charges he faced, KTLA-TV, Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Times reported.

"I want to thank God," Artiga, a pastor, said. "I want to thank my family. I said from the beginning the truth will set me free."

Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and ex-council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal were each found guilty of five counts of misappropriation of funds from the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority between Jan. 1, 2006, and July 26, 2010.

Ex-council members George Cole and Victor Bello were found to have misappropriated funds from the authority as well.

The five were acquitted on the same counts related to the Public Finance Authority.

The jurors, who sat through a four-week trial and deliberated for 18 days, had yet to reach decisions on numerous other counts. They told the judge they were split 9-3 on the remaining counts, but did not indicate which way they were leaning, KTLA-TV said.

Several jurors indicated they were at an impasse.

"As much as I hate to do this, I think the court needs to inquire further," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy said. "I know you thought this was going to be the end and I was going to be releasing you."

Kennedy sent the jury home with instructions to return in the morning, the Times said.

Former city administrator Robert Rizzo and former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia also face charges in the corruption case, which started with revelations in 2010 that officials in the Los Angeles County city of about 35,000 people were drawing huge salaries. Rizzo was being paid $800,000 a year salary and Spaccia nearly $400,000.

The Bell Association to Stop the Abuse called the verdicts "a clear step in helping the Bell community to heal."

"This verdict is long awaited and further vindicates the community's efforts to move out of the shadow of Rizzo's corrupt regime," the group said in a statement.

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