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Two and a half years later, ex-Bell officials to stand trial

January 3, 2013 |  3:17 pm

Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia, Victor Bello and Oscar Hernandez appear at bail hearing in 2010. Credit: Al Seib/L.A. Times

Six former Bell City Council members accused in a widespread corruption case that left the L.A. County town on the cusp of bankruptcy are expected to go on trial later this month, a Superior Court judge said Thursday.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy said during a hearing Thursday that she thought the trial would start Jan. 24, according to Stanley L. Friedman, attorney for defendant Oscar Hernandez, the city's former mayor.

Estimates are that the trial will last a month, possibly two.

The other defendants are George Cole, Luis Artiga, George Mirabal, Victor Bello and Teresa Jacobo. The six are accused of being paid for attending meetings of city boards, such as the Surplus Property Authority and the Public Finance Authority, that met seldom if ever, and then only for a minute or two.

As a result,  council members earned nearly $100,000 a year for part-time jobs running a city with fewer  than 40,000 people.

Prospective jurors will fill out questionnaires Jan. 15, and jury selection will begin Jan. 22.

The trial of Robert Rizzo, the city's former chief administrative officer, who was paid about $1.5 million a year, and Angela Spaccia, the city's former assistant chief administrative officer, is expected to follow the council members' trial.

 Rizzo and Spaccia are accused of boosting their salaries without having their contracts approved by the City Council, conspiring to illegally boost their pensions and layering on extra benefits for themselves.

Rizzo faces charges of lending nearly $2 million of city money to himself, employees and business owners without City Council approval.

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-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia, Victor Bello and Oscar Hernandez appear at bail hearing in 2010. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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