Preliminary hearing underway for ‘Bell Eight’ politicians

Former Bell city employees (left to right) Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia, Victor Bello and Oscar Hernandez attend a bail reduction hearing on Sept. 22, 2010 in Los Angeles.
Former Bell city employees (left to right) Robert Rizzo, Angela Spaccia, Victor Bello and Oscar Hernandez attend a bail reduction hearing on Sept. 22, 2010 in Los Angeles. Al Seib/AFP/Getty Images

The only Bell city councilman who wasn’t charged with scamming millions of dollars testified in the second day of preliminary hearings Tuesday. Six City Council members are facing a judge in Los Angeles on dozens of felony counts - including misappropriation of public funds.

For hours, prosecutors and defense attorneys grilled Councilman Lorenzo Velez about the doings around Bell – including alleged phony governing committees, like the Solid Waste & Recycling Authority, from which prosecutors accuse Velez’s colleagues of collecting tens of thousands of dollars.

When the prosecution asked what Velez knew about them, he said he was in the dark.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Ronald Kaye, who represents former Bell Mayor George Cole, said Velez’s testimony suggested that he did know about the boards. “He also established that there were substantial legislation and city business going on for each one of these areas of conduct.”

But L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Edward Miller maintained that the committees were bogus. “I’d love to see a Surplus Waste Authority and maybe that witness will come in and testify for the defense. I’d love to shake his hand – no wait... solid waste... I don’t want to shake his hand.”

A judge will decide whether there’s enough evidence to order trials for the mayor of Bell and five other past and present members of the City Council on dozens of fraud charges.

The city’s former manager Robert Rizzo and his former assistant Angela Spaccia could get their turn in court for another round of preliminary hearings as soon as Monday.

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