Robert Rizzo wants judge in Bell case to recuse himself because he already has ‘negative opinions’
Robert Rizzo, Bell's disgraced former city administrator, wants the judge who will decide whether he should stand trial on public-corruption charges to recuse himself from the case, according to a motion filed by his attorney Tuesday morning.
Attorney James Spertus said in his motion that Judge Henry J. Hall is not coming to the hearing with "a clean slate and an open mind" and that he has already formed "extremely strong and entirely negative opinions" about Bell City Council members who worked with Rizzo.
When Hall ordered six current and former Bell council members to stand trial on charges that they misappropriated public funds, he described the allegations as "appalling." He said he considered recommending additional charges -– and also ordered the defendants to "not be involved in the running of that city in any shape or form."
Based on those comments, Spertus told the Times, "I'm very concerned about getting a fresh assessment from this court."
"It's very important that we get a fair, fresh and impartial look at the evidence," Spertus said.
The motion comes as Tuesday's hearing is set to get underway. It is the second of three preliminary hearings scheduled for eight current and former Bell officials facing charges in the corruption scandal. Tuesday's hearing involves charges against Rizzo and former assistant city administrator Angela Spaccia on charges of misappropriating public funds and falsifying public records. Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former Councilman Luis Artiga are also charged with accepting city loans for personal benefit.
-- Corina Knoll and Jeff Gottlieb
Photo: Attorney James Spertus, left, stands with his client, Robert Rizzo, in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Feb. 7. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times