Bell verdict: 'I want to thank God,' acquitted ex-councilman says
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.
His co-defendants, all of whom were found guilty of multiple counts of misappropriating public funds, patted him on the back and congratulated him.
"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 free."
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.
"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 raises."
“My client is an innocent man and the people from the state of California have spoken,” Mgdesyan said.
-- Richard Winton, Ruben Vives and Corina KnollPhoto: Luis Artiga reacts after being acquitted on all charges in the Bell corruption trial. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times