Tough questioning in preliminary hearing for 'Bell Eight' politicians

Mercer 14702

Al Seib/AFP/Getty Images

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.

Attorneys continued to question the only sitting member of Bell’s City Council who doesn’t face criminal charges. The judge paved the way for testimony of former Bell Council members’ large salaries.

Councilman Lorenzo Velez says that in a closed-door meeting, he confronted one or more of his Council colleagues about their bloated salaries. Defense attorneys tried to have the judge dismiss Velez’s testimony about that private meeting, but the judge allowed it.

Velez, who was making about $600 a month, said the discussion followed a public meeting in June of last year when a citizen shouted at panel members and called them crooks. That happened after news of the scandal broke.

Velez said councilmembers told him he wasn’t raking in more money because he was appointed and not elected. On the witness stand, he maintained that he couldn’t remember who said that.

Outside the courtroom, attorney Stanley Friedman, who represents Bell mayor Oscar Hernandez, said that’s a problem.

“Today we saw Mr. Velez as a modern day Rip Van Winkle," Friedman said. "He didn’t remember anything, was asleep, didn’t know what was going on in the city. And that was very different from the first day he came in and testified where he said he basically claimed that he was an expert in the city.”

Deputy L.A. county district attorney Edward Miller, who’s prosecuting the case, countered by saying “Mr. Velez is who he is. He did not ask to be here. And he’s done a very honest job of testifying. It’s not difficult.”

The six Bell city officials who face corruption charges sat quietly as they watched testimony from Velez and a second witness – Bell City Clerk Rebecca Valdez. Prosecutors offered immunity to her.

More in Local


blog comments powered by Disqus