Reaction from Bell: 'They've been guilty since 2 1/2 years ago'
Even before all the verdicts were read, reaction in the small, working-class city of Bell was swift.
Denise Rodarte, an activist who pushed for reform in the city, said she was puzzled that jurors took so long before handing down multiple guilty verdicts against five of the six former council members accused of looting the city treasury.
"It took so long and it shouldn't have been so complicated," Rodarte said shortly after the verdicts for ex-council members Oscar Hernandez and Teresa Jacobo were read.FULL COVERAGE: Bell corruption trial
"For us as a community, they've been guilty since two and a half years ago."
"We were getting a bit scared," she added. "We were worried we were going to have a hung jury or they were going to be found not guilty."
Carol San Jose sat low behind a desk at a notary business a block from Bell City Hall as one of the accused former councilmen wept on TV as he was found not guilty of several counts of misappropriation of funds.
The Bell resident had almost forgotten about the corruption case when she happened to turn on an overhead television inside Lagos Professional Services. "It was a coincidence I turned it on," San Jose said.Once she did, she was transfixed, watching as Councilman Luis Artiga, a pastor, wept with apparent gratitude as he was cleared of multiple felonies, unlike his former council colleagues.
"I thought they were guilty and I would have felt bad if they had not been found guilty, as much bad as they did to the city," the receptionist said. "I thought they were going to get off."
Photo: A Bell police officer looks in on a Bell City Council meeting from the lobby of the Bell Community Center on Feb. 6. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times