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Defense strategy in Bell corruption trial: Blame Robert Rizzo

January 25, 2013 |  4:30 am

Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo, left, and former Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia, who are charged with misappropriation of public funds appear at a court hearing in October 2012. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

As the the Bell corruption trial for six former council members began Thursday, it didn't take long for the defense strategy to become clear: Blame former City Administrator Robert Rizzo.

Prosecutors in their opening statements depicted six former council members as greedy operators who schemed to collect outsized salaries by serving on various government boards that did nothing.

They claim Rizzo controlled the city and was the mastermind of the alleged corruption. He faces trial later this year, along with his former assistant, Angela Spaccia.

FULL COVERAGE: Crisis in Bell

Ronald Kaye, attorney for former Councilman George Cole, went as far as to say the council members were "in a cocoon" and that Rizzo "didn't let them know what was going on in the city."

"It was reasonable to rely on this man because he had a track record of being this amazing, productive city manager," he said. "When he ripped off this city and these council members, he duped them."

In addition to Cole, former council members Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal are facing charges in the trial. All six face potential prison terms if convicted.

On Thursday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Edward Miller walked the jury through a PowerPoint presentation that listed how often the four agencies met. One screen shot read, “Agendas for each had one item. Pay raises.”

Between 2006 and 2007, Miller said, the total meeting time for all of the boards was 34 minutes.

“The evidence will show that they worked less minutes than my opening statement will take this morning,” he said.

Opening statements will continue Friday morning as the remaining defense attorneys finish their initial presentations to the jury.

City Clerk Rebecca Valdez is scheduled to be the first witness.

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-- Jeff Gottlieb and Corina Knoll

Photo: Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo, left, and former Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia, who are charged with misappropriation of public funds appear at a court hearing in October 2012. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times 

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