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Husband of star witness in Bell corruption case removed from court, accused of sending her signals

February 15, 2011 | 11:11 am

Lourdes Garcia at a Bell City Council meeting Aug. 16, 2010. The husband of a star witness in the Bell corruption case was ordered removed from court by the judge in the preliminary hearing after a bailiff reported seeing him signaling his wife while on the stand.

 The incident occurred Tuesday morning as Lourdes Garcia, the city's director of administrative services, was testifying in the corruption case against eight former and current Bell officials. Garcia, who earned about $422,000, was offered limited immunity in exchange for her testimony in a corruption case accusing city leaders of looting Bell's treasury.

A bailiff informed Judge Henry J. Hall that he saw Jose Garcia make signals to his wife from the gallery of the courtroom. The judge called a sidebar with attorneys and then ordered Jose Garcia out of the court.

In an interview, Jose Garcia, who also works for the city of Bell, denied that he was coaching his wife or giving her signals.

Lourdes Garcia is the second city worker offered partial immunity in an ongoing hearing to determine if there's enough evidence to try current and former City Council members Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal for misappropriation of public funds.

The immunity offer for Lourdes Garcia — and City Clerk Rebecca Valdez before her — means she cannot be prosecuted by the Los Angeles County district attorney for her testimony. Neither of the city employees have been charged in the corruption case.


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--Jeff Gottlieb

Photo: Lourdes Garcia at a Bell City Council meeting Aug. 16. Credit: Christina House / For The Times