Luis Artiga, the sole Bell councilman acquitted on all corruption charges, cried as the court clerk read the not guilty verdicts and motioned his hands in prayer and said, "Thank you, Lord."
He faced 12 counts of misappropriation of public funds and a sentence of up to 16 years.
Artiga, a pastor in Bell, was appointed to the City Council long after salaries for council members had been boosted, a point
his attorney underscored in closing arguments.
CHEAT SHEET: Bell corruption verdicts
His co-defendants, all of whom were found guilty of multiple
counts of misappropriating public funds, patted him on the back and
"Mr. Artiga has been exonerated on all charges," Judge Kathleen Kennedy said before releasing him. "Good
health to you."
At a news conference after the verdicts were read, Artiga said: "I want to thank God. I want to thank my family. ... I said from the beginning the truth will set me
FULL COVERAGE: Bell corruption trial
Artiga said he had prepared only a not guilty statement because
he had such faith in his innocence.
"I never lost faith throughout for a
moment," Artiga said.
As to his colleagues, he said, "I pray the Lord would
be with them."
He also thanks the jurors "from the bottom of my heart."
Artiga said he regrets accepting former City Administrator Robert Rizzo's offer to serve on the City Council.
DOCUMENT: Read the charges
"Yes, I do regret being on the council," Artiga said. "I went there
to serve the community of Bell."
Artiga's attorney, George Mgdesyan, said Artiga's defense was different from that of his former colleagues because he joined the council
after all the actions were taken.
"The evidence is clear my client did
not vote on those authorities," he said. "He did not vote on those pay
“My client is an innocent man and the people from the state
of California have spoken,” Mgdesyan said.
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-- Richard Winton, Ruben Vives and Corina Knoll
Photo: Luis Artiga reacts after being acquitted on all charges in the Bell corruption
trial. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times