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Bell defense attorneys say witness not being honest, knew of boards that contributed to high salaries


Defense attorneys for six current and former Bell city leaders strived Tuesday to impeach the testimony of a councilman who told the court that he was stunned at how much his colleagues were earning and wasn’t even familiar with the boards and commissions from which they drew most of their salary.

Councilman Lorenzo Velez, the only sitting council member in Bell not charged in a sweeping public corruption case, was asked repeatedly whether he recalled telling investigators last July that he was familiar with at least two of the boards and had voted in favor of authorizing payments to one of them.

“If ignorance is a crime, I guess I’m guilty,” Velez said at one point.

During the morning-long exchanges, Velez at times seemed confused and rattled.

After the morning session, Velez said he felt intimidated on the witness stand. “They're pushing me to answer things I can't recollect,” he said.

Defense attorneys are set to resume crossing-examining Velez on Thursday afternoon and said they’ll attempt to undermine his testimony and value as a prosecution witness.

“You can’t be Rebecca of Stonybrook sitting on the council for as long as he has,” said Stanley Friedman, the attorney representing Mayor Oscar Hernandez -- who is among six former or current council members charged with misappropriating city money. 

Velez's testimony gave some insight into the way Robert Rizzo, Bell’s former chief administrative officer, ran the city. Rizzo has been charged with more than 50 counts of public corruption.

Asked by prosecutor Edward Miller who ran the city, Velez replied, “Mr. Robert Rizzo.” He later added, “As a citizen, I thought it was the council that ran the city … but when I started participating, I found out otherwise. Everything had to go past Mr. Robert Rizzo for it to be addressed.”

Velez testified that after he was sworn in as a councilman in October 2009, Rizzo came behind him and said he couldn’t participate in the meetings.

“I was sitting in my council seat, and Rizzo said in my ear, 'By the way, you can’t vote on any of these issues because you’re not a council member yet.'”

He also said that Hernandez and then-council member Luis Artiga were the members of the panel whom Rizzo consulted most frequently, and that Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal complained they were not consulted.


Bell corruption hearings resume: live updates

Velez takes stand in colleagues' preliminary hearing 

Bell officials reject deals from D.A.; critics say two years isn’t enough

--Jeff Gottlieb, Corina Knoll and Christopher Goffard

Photo: Lorenzo Velez attends a news conference in front of Bell City Hall on Feb. 4. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (11)

So is the defense strategy to discredit the witness by stating that the corruption was so blatant that that he must have been in on it??
If this is the defense plan then there goose is already cooked!

All appearances are the defense is going to undermined the credibility of the only seemingly honest Board member in Bell.

How nice.

Come on. Everyone had to know what was going and is in denial. A city with a population of 36K and at least 70% illegal you are talking about maybe 2000 -3000 eligible voters. I bet more than half lived and worked for the city. The majority is milking the system because it is family. Many more cities are like that. Now you know why politicians loves the illegal community?

Hardy har har. Try to slander the one guy
who wasn't stealing six figures a year.
How stupid does the L.A. Times think it's readers are?

No,no, you just don't get it. Since the corruption was so rampant, and obviousl Velez knew about it, he's just jealous because he couldn't get in on it. You know, being an honest person and all, he didn't qualify.

"there goose" - God help us

Velez wasn't charged because he hadn't been there long enough to get his hand in the cookie jar. By the way, Why hasn't Randy "my neck hurts" Adams been charged? Oh that's right---- He is good friends with "HONEST" Steve Cooley.

everyone knows he's the one that went to the times with the story, and the only reason he talked is because the other crooks didn't want to share any of thier illegal pies. as for "he didn't know anything" I don't believe a word of it, ignorance of the law isn't a valid excuse. Send him up the river with the rest of this mexican scum.

Mr. Friedman's literature reference should be Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (not Stonybrook).

This is wonderful to watch. The corrupt fighting the corrupt as Rome burns.

The event horizon was hit long ago and these people will be the first to be stretched into non-existence.

California, welcome to a nightmare that will unfold slowly over 20+ years.

Not convinced that Velez is so lily white. I think he lucked out simply because he was so new, and may have unofficially still been on "probation" with the other council members. If more time has lapsed and he had passed "muster," methinks Velez would have been given (and taken!) the same salary(ies) as the other members.

The article makes it seem like Velez is somewhat clueless, which in itself is NOT a good sign for an elected official.

Oh, and I agree with Person of Interest...Randy Adams needs to be investigated/prosecuted!


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