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Jury selection begins in Bell corruption trial in Los Angeles Superior Court

Opening Hearing For Bell City Administrators

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File: From left Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez, former council members Luis Artiga, former Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia and former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo appear during a preliminary hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court February 22, 2011 in Los Angeles.

The search for a jury is set to begin in the trial of six former officials of the scandal-ridden Los Angeles suburb of Bell accused of massive corruption that brought national attention and nearly bankrupted the city.

About 100 prospective jurors will be get questionnaires Tuesday morning gauging their knowledge of the case against the former mayor and vice mayor and four former City Council members.

RELATED: More on the Bell corruption trial

Prosecutors accuse the six of looting Bell's treasury in order to pay themselves sky-high salaries. The complaint says tactics included creating sham commissions to enrich themselves.

They are charged with misappropriation of public funds in a 20-count felony complaint.

Two of the biggest city figures accused of corruption, former City Manager Robert Rizzo and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, are to be tried separately.

A judge who presided at a preliminary hearing for the officials concluded they had shirked their responsibilities and sold out their constituents for financial gain.

"These people were elected to be the voice of the people, to be a safeguard," said Superior Court Judge Henry Hall, who ordered them held for trial. "And they basically sold that off."

Defense attorneys had argued that the council members earned their salaries, working full time on the city's behalf, not only attending monthly council meetings but taking part in community projects that benefited low-income people, the aged and numerous others.

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