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Criminal trial for six former Bell city leaders slated for early January

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.
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.
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A criminal trial for six former Bell city leaders charged with misappropriating public money will begin in early January. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge scheduled the proceedings at a hearing Thursday morning.

Bell's former city council members and ex-mayor appeared with their attorneys before a judge. The judge raised a few key issues including the possibility of prescreening jurors for the trial.

The former Bell officials have pleaded not guilty to felony corruption charges. Prosecutors accuse them of bilking pubic money through big salaries and loans of taxpayer dollars.

Another hearing is scheduled for September before the trial begins in January. Attorneys expect that the trial will take about 25 days.

In a separate case, former Bell city administrator Robert Rizzo and his ex-assistant city manager are charged with misappropriating public money and falsifying public documents.