Bell corruption trial: Jury finds Angela Spaccia guilty of corruption, conspiracy charges

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After nearly five weeks of testimony and two weeks of deliberations, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury has found former Bell assistant city manager Angela Spaccia guilty of conspiracy and corruption charges.

The jury found Spaccia guilty of 11 of the 13 charges against her, including misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest. They remained deadlocked on a charge of misappropriating public funds and found her not guilty of a charge of secreting public records.

KPCC's Corey Moore was at the court. He said the court was mostly silent as the guilty verdicts were read. Spaccia's mother and sister broke into tears on their way out of the courtroom.

NBCLA posted a photo on Instagram of the former city administrator and veteran government executive being cuffed following the verdict. 

Photo: Spaccia is cuffed as she leaves the courtroom

Spaccia's Defense Attorney Harland Braun spoke with reporters following the verdict, saying he suspected she might be found guilty as the trial wore on. He added that from here on, his focus was on helping Spaccia 'get through the rest of her life'.  

"Sometimes when you have a high-publicity case, you get odd results and I think being remanded was unjust and unexpected," he said.  

Braun said he wouldn't be posting bail on Spaccia's behalf, telling reporters she wouldn't be able to afford it, and that the short release wouldn't accomplish much.

"Right now she's out on $350,000 and it cost her son $35,00 so she can't afford to make bail," he said. "Plus it would only be for a short amount of time anyway."  

Prosecutors say Spaccia, 55, earned over $560,000 annually as assistant city manager of the small city just east of the city of Los Angeles. Her boss, City Manager Robert Rizzo, recently pleaded no contest to corruption charges.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey spoke out after the verdict, characterizing the jury's decision as a triumph for Bell residents:

"Today's conviction of Angela Spaccia is a bittersweet victory for the residents of Bell," Lacey said.  "I'm pleased the jury viewed this extremely complex case precisely for what it was: grand theft paycheck."  

One of the jurors who spoke with reporters after the hearing said he felt Spaccia had been lead astray by Robert Rizzo. Marco Islas of LA, 49, (Juror #2) told reporters Rizzo had brainwashed her: 

"I didn't jump the gun. I just did right everything and then come to a conclusion," Islas said. "It was very hard to understand, but the system that was around her [was brainwashing her]. But at the end she knew what she was doing."  

Prosecuting attorney Sean Hassett told the jury in his closing arguments in November that “what was going on in Bell was crazy.” He argued Spaccia knowingly worked with Rizzo to defraud the city, including assisting him in creating a pension plan just for themselves.

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

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.

Her attorney argued she did nothing illegal, and was distracted by family issues during the years she worked for Bell. Spaccia was caring of her son during that time, who was seriously hurt in a car accident.

During the trial, Defense Attorney Braun told reporters 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.

Five members of Bell's City Council were convicted of corruption charges in March. Another trial is pending on charges a jury could not resolve.

This story has been updated.

With contributions from The Associated Press and Eric Zassenhaus

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