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Defense says ex-Lynwood officials are not guilty of corruption

July 24, 2012 |  6:52 pm

Attorneys for two former Lynwood City Council members urged jurors Tuesday to acquit their clients of public corruption charges, with one lawyer accusing the Los Angeles County district attorney's office of picking on the officials because they represented a poor city.

Louis Byrd and Fernardo Pedroza are charged with one count each of misappropriation of public funds. Prosecutors say the men took money illegally in a number of ways, including using credit cards for personal expenses, taking $100 per diem "reimbursements" to attend events that cost them no money and appeared unrelated to city business, and collecting salaries that sometimes amounted to $450 per minute for sitting on a pair of city commissions that prosecutors said did little work.

In making the allegation that the council members' salaries were illegal, the district attorney's office is attempting to break legal ground, and the trial of the former Lynwood council members is seen as a test case. Prosecutors have brought similar charges against former City Council members in Bell, who are expected to be tried later this year.

Byrd is charged with misappropriating more than $200,000 and Pedroza more than $65,000. Byrd's attorney, Tomas Requejo, called the district attorney's public integrity division a "bully."

"You don't see them going after Beverly Hills, you don't see them going after Calabasas, or county supervisors," Requejo told the jury during the trial's closing arguments. "You know why? Because a bully doesn't pick on someone who can fight back. A bully goes after someone they believe to be weak."

He also suggested that prosecutors were testing new legal theories in Lynwood because the city is poor.

"They're not going to test this case in a rich community," Requejo said.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Hassett dismissed the claim, saying the real bullies in the case were the two former council members.

"What's a bully? Somebody that abuses their authority and abuses the power given to them? Is that not what a bully is, and is that not what this case is about?" he told the jury.

Hassett also noted that the city had refused to turn over information about the council's pay in response to public records requests. He argued that the refusal was evidence that city officials knew they were doing something illegal.

The jury will begin deliberations Wednesday.

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--Abby Sewell

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