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From the jury pool: Former Bell officials 'raped constituents'

Dozens of jurors were waiting to be questioned Tuesday in a Los Angeles courtroom as defense lawyers and prosecutors began selecting a jury to hear the corruption case against six former Bell council members.

The former part-time council members are charged with drawing annual salaries of nearly $100,000,  paychecks they allegedly fattened by drawing stipends for serving on boards and commissions that rarely, if ever, met.

By midmorning, about 25 potential jurors -- all who had filled out juror questionnaires -- had been bounced.

"My mind is made up, I can't be impartial. I'm disgusted by the behavior," wrote one juror, who was then excused.

One woman described being "riveted and repulsed by the greed and audacity" and had a "negative description of the case from news reporting."

The potential juror wrote that the ex-city officials had "raped constituents" and filled their own pockets. Whenever she heard the word “Bell,” she wrote, she felt nauseous.

"Normally I think I can be a fair and impartial juror but as soon as I heard the judge mention Bell, I couldn't help forming opinions already."

She also was dismissed.

Another would-be juror suggested that former Bell administrator Robert Rizzo was “a ringleader” but that council members must have known what was going on. Though she said she would try to be fair, she was dismissed.

One potential juror pumped her fist when she was excused.

"It seems that those with money can hire amazing lawyers to get them out of anything, especially if you're a celebrity," another potential juror wrote.

At that point, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy turned to the prosecutor and six defense attorneys and said: "We'll have to find out if any of you are amazing lawyers."

On trial are George Cole, George Mirabal, Oscar Hernandez, Luis Artiga, Victor Bello and Teresa Jacobo.

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--Corina Knoll

 
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