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Bell's Rizzo wants trial moved out of L.A. Times' circulation area

January 23, 2013 | 11:32 am
Robert Rizzo in court last year. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

An attorney for Robert Rizzo, the former city manager of Bell who is now facing corruption charges, said his client can not get a fair trial in Los Angeles and will seek a change of venue.

Rizzo, who is likely to stand trial later this year, became the face of the financial scandal in Bell and is accused of looting the small town's treasury by paying extraordinary salaries, lending out city money and padding his own paycheck and retirement fund.

Lawyer James Spertus said he doesn't believe it is "remotely possible" for his client to get a fair hearing in the area served by the Los Angeles Times.

FULL COVERAGE: Bell trial

Spertus said he would make his motion when Rizzo's trial date approaches. No date has been set, but Spertus said he expects it could start during the summer.

Jennifer Lentz Snyder, assistant head deputy of the district attorney's Public Integrity Division, said "If defense counsel wants to make any motion, bring it. We're confident this prosecution is timely, appropriate and can be heard in L.A. County."

Spertus said a neutral jury couldn't be picked from within The Times' circulation area. 

"The Los Angeles Times has widely reported these issues, and based on that publicity I think the people who read the L.A. Times have preconceived notions of what happened in the city of Bell," Spertus said.

He suggested the trial be moved to San Francisco.

"It can’t be within the circulation of the L.A.Times," Spertus said. "That’s the only criteria. No other media is covering this case in the manner the L.A. Times is covering it."

At a hearing Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Spertus requested that Rizzo's electronic ankle bracelet, which tracks his movements, be removed. "It's a painful device, it's heavy," he said.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy told him to file a motion.

Jury selection is continuing Wednesday in the case of the six former Bell council members. They are accused of being paid for city board meetings that met seldom, if ever, boosting their salaries to nearly $100,000 a year for part-time jobs.

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-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Robert Rizzo in court last year. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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