Bell corruption trial gets nasty, prompting warning from judge
A former Bell city leader accused of plundering the town's treasury by taking an oversized salary continued to trade barbs with a prosecutor Friday, bringing an admonishment from the judge presiding over the municipal corruption case.
George Cole, a former steelworker in the small Los Angeles County city who presents himself as a dedicated civic booster, is one of six former city council members charged with misappropriation of funds.
All are accused of drawing huge paychecks by serving on boards and authorities that rarely met and did little work.
Deputy Dist. Atty Edward Miller, on Thursday, asked Cole if his work establishing a school had anything to do with the one of the authorities.
“No, it did not,” Cole said. “I don’t know why we’re doing this.”
“Why we’re doing what?” Miller asked. “Asking you questions?”
The day ended when Miller told Cole, “How about if I ask the questions, and you confine your answers to what I’ve asked.”
Judge Kathleen Kennedy jumped in: “How about if we try tomorrow” and recessed court.
But the witness and prosecutor started back in with the testy exchanges Friday, with defense lawyers jumping into the fray.
At one point, Kennedy singled out Ronald Kaye, Cole’s attorney.
“Mr. Kaye, you can stop making faces,” Kennedy said.
Earlier she had admonished Cole.
“Mr Cole, you will answer the questions that are asked of you unless there’s an objection I sustain. Do you understand?”
Cole, along with Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal, could be sentenced to prison if convicted. Bell’s former city manager, Robert Rizzo, and assistant city manager Angela Spaccia are also charged in the case, and will likely stand trial later this year.
-- Jeff Gottlieb and Corina Knoll
Photo: George Cole in court on the opening day of his ongoing trial. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times