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Spaccia could draw a longer prison term than Rizzo

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemCity of Bell Public Corruption Scandal

Bell's former second-in-command is an unrepentant thief who stole from the working-class citizens in the small Los Angeles County city and then lied on the witness stand in an effort to blame others, Los Angeles prosecutors wrote in a scathing sentencing memo that urges the court to punish her with a 12-year, eight-month prison sentence.

If that recommendation is followed when Angela Spaccia is sentenced later this month, she would draw a longer prison term than is expected to be handed to Robert Rizzo, her former boss and the longtime face of the corruption in Bell.

In a pre-sentencing memo to the court, the Los Angeles district attorney's office said "the court would be hard pressed to find a more egregious case of public corruption" and a "more unrepentant defendant" than Spaccia.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Hassett also asked that Spaccia be ordered to pay restitution of more than $8.2 million.

In a letter to the probation officer investigating the case, Bell City Manager Doug Willmore also took a hard line.

"If a life sentence could be awarded for a nonviolent crime, this would be the case to award that," wrote Willmore, who is part of a new team of administrators and elected leaders running the city.

Spaccia was handcuffed and taken to jail immediately after the jury found her guilty last month, the only one of seven former city leaders to be jailed after they were convicted. Rizzo and five former council members are free on bail as they await sentencing.

Spaccia is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday. However, her attorney, Harland Braun, said he will go to court Friday to ask the judge for a delay.

By the time they were ousted in the summer of 2010, Rizzo was drawing an annual paycheck of $1.18 million a year and Spaccia, the assistant city manager, was earning $564,000, making them among the highest-paid municipal leaders in California, and probably in the nation.

When Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 felonies, Kennedy said she would sentence him to 10 to 12 years in prison.

In addition, Rizzo pleaded guilty this week to two counts of federal tax fraud. Spaccia is also expected to be indicted for tax fraud.

Rizzo could receive eight years in prison for the tax crimes, but his lawyer is trying to arrange things so Rizzo can serve his sentences concurrently in a federal institution that houses nonviolent criminals.

Braun said Hassett was exaggerating Spaccia's role in the Bell scandal.

"To equate Angela Spaccia with Robert Rizzo is bizarre. What they're really mad at is that she went to trial," he said. "They didn't want a trial."

Braun said he would like Spaccia to receive her sentence after Rizzo is sentenced March 12 so he can question Bell's former top administrator.

The district attorney, he said, has done only a perfunctory interview with Rizzo.

jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemCity of Bell Public Corruption Scandal
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