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Jury selection to begin in trial of Bell official Angela Spaccia

October 07, 2013|By Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives
  • Former Bell assistant city manager Angela Spaccia stands outside a courtroom after a pretrial hearing in Los Angeles.
Former Bell assistant city manager Angela Spaccia stands outside a courtroom… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in the public-corruption trial of Angela Spaccia -- the second-in-command in Bell when the city erupted in scandal.

Under former city manager Robert Rizzo, Spaccia pulled in a salary of $376,000 a year and doubled as the top administrator in neighboring Maywood, a city that let go most of its civic employees after it lost its insurance in 2010.

Rizzo pleaded no contest last week to 69 felony charges, including misappropriating public funds.

FULL COVERAGE: Corruption in Bell

Though facing 13 corruption-related charges in the Bell scandal, Spaccia's attorney has painted her as a victim of Rizzo’s scheming to loot the small town’s treasury.

Rizzo's attorney said his client and Spaccia are expected to also face federal tax fraud charges within the next few weeks.

As Bell's assistant city manager, Spaccia was paid an outsized paycheck for the job, but it was far less than Rizzo's $800,000 annual salary and the nearly $500,000 salary of Bell's police chief, whose contract prosecutors say she helped draft and conceal from the public.

In court documents filed by prosecutors, Spaccia emerges as a significant player in various schemes to raid the city treasury and enrich Rizzo and herself -- but also as a person who often deferred to her boss.

TIMELINE: Bell corruption 'on steroids'

Spaccia, prosecutors allege, worked with Rizzo to come up with a generous retirement package for the two of them. Although Spaccia was the main contact with the bank that set up the fund, she often said she needed to check with Rizzo before making decisions, according to the grand jury testimony of Alan Pennington, the bank employee who helped set up the account.

But Rizzo -- who surprised many people last week by pleading no contest to the 69 felony charges, which also included hiding and falsifying records, perjury and other crimes -- says Spaccia was the real mastermind behind the corruption at City Hall. His attorney said Rizzo will cooperate with prosecutors in their case against his former assistant.

That leaves Spaccia alone to face the most serious charges in the sweeping corruption scandal, which has already resulted in guilty verdicts against five former City Council members.

Records show that Spaccia was intimately involved in some of the alleged misdeeds, but interviews and evidence presented by prosecutors paint a less convincing picture that she masterminded the fiscal schemes.

"There was one architect and his name is Robert Rizzo," said former Bell Councilman Luis Artiga, the one official acquitted earlier this year of corruption charges. "It's obvious; he was manipulative, he lied, he cheated."

Spaccia insisted in court Friday that she was not guilty of the corruption that made Bell a symbol for municipal graft.

Spaccia, who talked briefly with reporters, said Rizzo was the mastermind of the wrongdoing in the Los Angeles County city.

The trial could begin Oct. 22, according to her attorney.


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Twitter: @GottliebJeff

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