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Bell trial: Jurors ordered to resume deliberations

March 21, 2013 | 11:23 am

Photo: Five former Bell City Council members were found guilty Wednesday of stealing public money by paying themselves extraordinary salaries in one of Los Angeles County's poorest cities. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Jurors in the Bell corruption trial were ordered Thursday to resume deliberations on the multiple charges they were unable to reach a verdict on, lengthening a drawn-out effort to bring the criminal case to a close.

Jurors returned mixed verdicts Wednesday, convicting five former council members on multiple counts of misappropriation of public funds but acquitting the defendants on an equal number of charges. But jurors were unable to reach a verdict on roughly half the counts.

One of the former council members, Luis Artiga, was acquitted on all charges.

FULL COVERAGE: Bell corruption trial

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy ordered jurors to resume their efforts to reach a verdict on 42 criminal counts relating to the high salaries the elected officials were drawing in one of Los Angeles County’s poorest cities.

The day began as chaotically as it ended Wednesday, with a juror expressing misgivings about the guilty verdicts that had been handed down. All of the guilty verdicts – each one a felony – related to the council member’s pay for serving on the small town’s Solid Waste and Recycling Authority.

In a note early Thursday, the juror cited the pressure and stress of the deliberation process as his or her reason to rethink the vote on the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority.

CHEAT SHEET: Bell corruption verdicts

A juror also requested more information or evidence on Edward Lee, a former city attorney for Bell who was not called as a witness in the four-week trial. It was not clear if the note was from a different juror than No. 7, who sent a similar note on Wednesday.

Kennedy denied the request to reconsider the guilty verdicts.

“That's done; we're not going to reopen verdicts that have been reached,” Kennedy said.

Former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez, and ex-council members George Cole, Victor Bello, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal were convicted on multiple felony counts Wednesday.

Artiga, who was cleared on all counts, has been excused. He returned briefly Thursday to offer support for the other defendants, saying: "Because I have a heart. Because I know how it feels to be up there."

ALSO:

Reaction from Bell: ‘Rizzo is next!’

Bell trial: Juror wants to reconsider guilty verdicts, note says

Bell: Appellate court rules city can seek restitution for salaries

-- Corina Knoll and Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Five former Bell City Council members were found guilty Wednesday of stealing public money by paying themselves extraordinary salaries in one of Los Angeles County's poorest cities. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times
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