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Rizzo to be released from jail after judge accepts $2-million bail offer

October 6, 2010 |  5:08 pm


Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, who is facing 53 charges that he helped misappropriate millions in public funds, will be released from jail after Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Villar said she was satisfied that the money being posted for his $2-million bail was not linked to the money he made in made in Bell.

Rizzo  must wear an electronic monitoring device and surrender his passport.

Rizzo has been described by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley as "the unelected and unaccountable czar" who oversaw "corruption on steroids" in Bell.

The former city administrator had already fought to slash his bail from $3.2 million to $2 million. Wednesday's hearing was to determine whether he could provide collateral for the bond that was unrelated to his city earnings.

Rizzo's nearly $800,000 salary sparked outrage and led to revelations of widespread inflated salaries among Bell officials -- as well as numerous other alleged misdeeds, including illegal taxation and voter fraud.

Rizzo has been in jail since Sept. 21, when seven other current and former city leaders were taken in custody in a sweep.

Rizzo could face more than 40 years in prison if convicted of 53 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds, conflict of interest and falsifying public records to keep his lucrative salary secret.

His attorney James Spertus argued Wednesday that four properties in Torrance and Los Angeles not owned by Rizzo should be sufficient collateral for his bail and are unrelated to Rizzo's earnings. In court papers, he presented an insurance analysis showing their combined value as $2.3 million.

However, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman questioned whether the estimates are accurate, arguing that there is insufficient documentation about the properties' current market values and whether the values have increased since the last hearing.

"They are now saying [the properties] are worth more. The firm is Creative Bail Bonds and they may have earned their name," Huntsman told The Times in an interview before the hearing.

-- Richard Winton

Photo: Former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, right, and his attorney James Spertus during a bail hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times