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Bell corruption trial: Decision to retry comes next month

April 23, 2013|By Jeff Gottlieb
  • Listening at a preliminary hearing are, from left, former Bell council members Luis Artiga, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, George Mirabal, Victor Bello and Teresa Jacobo. In March, Artiga was found not guilty on all charges; the others were found guilty on some charges and could face a retrial on others.
Listening at a preliminary hearing are, from left, former Bell council… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

Prosecutors said they will announce a decision next month on whether to retry five former Bell City Council members accused of corruption.

The council members were convicted last month on some charges, and acquitted on others. The jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of conviction on nearly half the counts.

Prosecutor Ed Miller said he has written a memo on the case and is awaiting a decision from his superiors. He said he will inform the court at a hearing May 29  whether there will be another trial for Oscar Hernandez, Victor Bello, George Cole, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal.

The verdict came on March 19 after the 18th day of deliberations -- nearly as long as the trial itself -- and ended in chaos.

After delivering their first round of verdicts, the jury resumed deliberating another day. In the end, though, the judge declared a mistrial on the outstanding counts, saying "all hell has broken loose" with the deeply divided jury.

An exasperated Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy drew the case to a close after a final day of deliberating marked by confusion. One juror asked to reconsider the guilty verdicts reached the day before. Then, an anonymous juror passed a note to Kennedy urging her to "remind the jury to remain respectful and not to make false accusations and insults to one another." Kennedy refused to set aside the guilty verdicts.

"The verdicts came out and then it got weird," said Stanley L. Friedman, the attorney for one of the accused former city leaders.

Defense attorneys suggested there may be grounds for a motion for a new trial. Cole's attorney, Ronald Kaye, said the jury's behavior suggested "coercion and intimidation" that throws the guilty verdicts into question.

Attorney Shepard Kopp, who represented Jacobo, said the jury's conduct is "tremendous legal grounds for motion for a new trial."

Prosecutors declined to comment because of the September trial of Robert Rizzo, the former city administrator alleged to be the mastermind of the corruption.

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Twitter: @gottliebjeff

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