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Bell corruption trial: Jurors may be struggling

Former Bell City Council members in court last month. Jurors have again asked to have some testimony read back to them..
Before adjourning Monday, jurors in the corruption case of six former Bell City Council members again asked to have testimony read back to them, an indication that they are still trying to decide if the high salaries the elected officials were pulling in were legal.

If jurors find the salaries were legal, they can vote to acquit.

If jurors find the salaries were illegal, they must decide whether council members knew that what they were doing was wrong or that a reasonable person in their position should have known.

CRISIS IN BELL: High salaries stir outrage

Jurors on Monday asked to hear testimony from Feb. 11 when former councilman George Mirabal was questioned by his attorney, Alex Kessel, about a section of the City Charter having to do with council pay and a section of the state Constitution.

Mirabal testified that reading those documents led him to believe his salary was legal, said Stanley L. Friedman, the attorney for defendant Oscar Hernandez.

“It looks very favorable for Mr. Hernandez and it looks favorable across the board for all defendants because the jury is giving serious consideration to defense arguments that the salaries were legal,” Friedman said Monday.

Jurors have now deliberated for 12 days, although they were interrupted five days into the process when Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy dismissed one panel member for misconduct after the woman admitted she had consulted the Internet for help.

Kennedy replaced her with an alternate and told jurors to start deliberations anew.

Along with Mirabal and Hernandez, Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole and Teresa Jacobo are on trial for misappropriation of public funds. They are charged with pumping up their salaries by taking pay for work on city boards that seldom, if ever, met.

-- Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Former Bell City Council members in court last month. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 

 
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