The attorney for the City of Bell’s former assistant administrator Angela Spaccia Thursday afternoon delivered closing arguments in the pubic corruption case against her. Spaccia faces more than a dozen felony charges. Spaccia’s lawyer asked jurors to consider a central question: Where’s her boss?
Robert Rizzo was city manager for the southeast L.A. County municipality. Spaccia was his second in command.
The two made the highest salaries among Bell officials — Spaccia, at just over half a million dollars, including benefits, and Rizzo at more than a million.
Rizzo has pleaded no contest to 69 felony corruption charges, including misappropriation of public funds.
In his final arguments, Spaccia’s defense attorney Harland Braun asked the Los Angeles Superior Court jury why Rizzo, the man who’d become the face of public corruption in the small working-class city, wasn’t called by prosecutors to testify.
“Why isn’t he a witness here?" Braun asked. "Why don’t they put him up there, put him under oath? Tell us what he did. He’s not here because if he told the truth, my client wouldn’t be a defendant.”
The prosecution has said Rizzo might testify, but he was never called. Braun argued that Rizzo and the city’s former finance director, not Spaccia, fudged employment contracts, public records and authorized illegal city loans.
Spaccia said she believed under Bell’s city charter that Rizzo had the authority to award high salaries, benefits and raises without city council approval.
Earlier in the day, Deputy D.A. Max Huntsman hammered away at Spaccia’s defense in his closing arguments. He said she and Rizzo operated under a “secret formula” to hide their huge salaries.
“Bottom line is, good luck trying to figure out how much they were making," Huntsman said. "The best way to do it is by actually looking at their checks... for anybody to really figure it out, they’d have to be Sherlock Holmes.”
Spaccia is charged with six counts of misappropriation of public funds, four counts of conflict of interest, two counts of secretion of official records and one count of conspiracy to commit misappropriation of public funds.
Prosecutors Friday will deliver their final rebuttal arguments before the case goes to the jury for deliberation.
This story has been updated.