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Bell jury heads home, another week without a verdict

March 15, 2013 |  5:09 pm

Jurors in the Bell corruption trial went home Friday without a verdict, dragging the criminal case into another week.

Monday will mark the jury’s 16th day of deliberations.

The jury of seven women and five men is attempting to determine whether six former council members misappropriated public funds by taking salaries of up to $100,000, paychecks that were beefed up by serving on city boards and authorities that rarely met.

CRISIS IN BELL: High salaries stir outrage

Earlier on Friday the panel listened as testimony was read back regarding one defendant's pay, as well as the city clerk's testimony about slipping doctored contracts into a stack of papers to be signed by the  mayor.

Jurors had specifically requested to hear what former Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo said in her testimony about a conversation she had with then-City Administrator Robert Rizzo about working full-time for Bell.

The first defendant to testify, Jacobo said on the witness stand in February that it was Rizzo who informed her she would be able to quit her job as a real estate agent and receive a pay boost from the city.

The jury also listened to City Clerk Rebecca Valdez's testimony about placing Rizzo's salary contracts into a pile of documents to be signed by then-Mayor Oscar Hernandez.

Handed the case Feb. 22, the jury appears to have struggled to determine whether the bloated salaries of Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole, George Mirabal, Jacobo and Hernandez were legal.

However, the recent read-back request seemed to show that the panel was attempting to consider the defendants as individuals and not as a group.

Jurors had hoped Friday to also hear testimony about Hernandez's ability to read and write English, but were informed by L.A. County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy that their request had not been backed by evidence in court.

The jury will reconvene Monday.


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-- Corina Knoll

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