Bell corruption trial: Los Angeles jury begins deliberating the case of ex-asst city manager Angela Spaccia (Update)

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UPDATE 1:27 p.m.: LA jury begins deliberating the case of ex-assistant city administrator Angela Spaccia

After nearly five weeks of testimony, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury has began deliberations in the Bell public corruption trial against Angela Spaccia.

The former Bell assistant city administrator and veteran government executive is charged with 13 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest.

In the final rebuttal arguments Friday morning, Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett said Spaccia, 55, failed the people of Bell.

“What was going on in Bell was crazy. No one would believe it,” Hassett told the eight-woman, four-man jury. “She went along with it the whole way, the whole time, knowing what she was doing was wrong.''

Hassett said Spaccia used millions of taxpayer dollars to pay herself and others “ridiculous sums” of money. For example, she and her boss – former city manager Robert Rizzo – created a pension plan just for themselves, excluding others, the prosecutor told jurors.

“Robert Rizzo stole millions of dollars from the city of Bell and Angela Spaccia helped him every step of the way,'' Hassett said.

Spaccia was making a base salary of $370,000 that, by 2010, increased to $564,000 annually with vacation and sick pay. Rizzo was taking in more than $1 million a year.

The prosecutor emphasized that Spaccia was in charge of a bogus city loan program under which she created administrative agreements that provided her and Rizzo a revolving line of credit that amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

After Bell became a charter city in 2005, Spaccia gave herself huge pay raises and boosted her retirement plan – all without city council approval, Hassett said.

After final arguments ended Friday, Spaccia’s attorney Harland Braun spoke to reporters outside of the downtown Los Angeles courthouse.

“Our position is that she was a public official but she [did not] have the ability to appropriate money or enter into contracts.” Braun said. “[Prosecutors] would have to prove that she knew that the conduct was illegal.”

Braun said he believed the defense team established to jurors that Spaccia perhaps used poor judgement and should have asked more questions, but did nothing illegal.

Spaccia, who testified in her own defense for seven days during the trial, said she believed Rizzo had the authority to hand out raises and simply acted as a typist in preparing employment agreements.

Braun said Spaccia was distracted by family issues during the years she worked for Bell, including taking caring of her son, who was seriously hurt in a car accident.

The defense attorney added that the public corruption case against Spaccia and other city officials was politically motivated.

“[Prosecutors] were under pressure because of the Attorney General’s race coming up so they went out and arrested everyone that had been sued by Jerry Brown a day or two earlier,” Braun said.

Braun told reporters that his client Spaccia is nervous about how the jury will decide.  

“Obviously her life is at stake in this deliberation,” he said.

PREVIOUSLY: Jury gets case of highly paid ex-Bell official Angela Spaccia

The case of the former assistant city manager of the tiny city of Bell has been submitted to jurors after a prosecutor told them she stole millions.

Angela Spaccia occasionally shook her head in disagreement as Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett told jurors Friday her actions were illegal. He linked her repeatedly with City Manager Robert Rizzo, who has pleaded no contest to 69 corruption charges.

Hassett said they were in it together and conspired to give themselves enormous salaries and benefits.

Spaccia's attorney had argued on Thursday that their salaries were staggering but not criminal.

Jurors began deliberations after having heard five weeks of testimony. Five other city officials were convicted of some corruption charges in a separate trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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