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L.A. Now Live: Robert Rizzo headed to prison in Bell corruption case

October 04, 2013
  • Robert Rizzo in court in March 2011. Rizzo, former Bell city manager, entered a no-contest plea to corruption charges on Thursday.
Robert Rizzo in court in March 2011. Rizzo, former Bell city manager, entered… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Discuss former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo’s no-contest plea and who’s due in court next in the city’s corruption scandal with Times reporter Ruben Vives at 9 a.m.

Rizzo, the central figure in the scandal that made the working-class city of Bell a national symbol for government graft, effectively admitted for the first time Thursday his role in the corruption scheme.

On the eve of his trial, Rizzo made a surprise appearance in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom and pleaded no contest to 69 felony charges of misappropriating public funds, hiding and falsifying records, perjury and other crimes.

Prosecutors said Rizzo would be sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison. His attorney said Rizzo would also probably be required to pay between $1 million and $3.2 million in restitution to the city.

Rizzo’s lawyer, James W. Spertus, said the plea resolves not only the district attorney’s charges but a civil lawsuit filed by the California attorney general’s office and a federal criminal probe into whether Rizzo conspired to commit tax fraud. He said Rizzo is cooperating with authorities and claims his former assistant city manager, Angela Spaccia, was the architect of the corruption.

Spaccia’s attorney, Harland Braun, said he was shocked by Rizzo’s decision to plead. He said he knew nothing about impending federal charges and denied that his client was the mastermind of the Bell corruption scheme.

Thursday’s plea simplifies the case against Spaccia, Braun said. “It means the prosecutor's case will depend on the credibility of Robert Rizzo,” he said. “How often does the guy who put it together blame his assistant? That’s not even credible.”

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