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Bell corruption: D.A. to seek maximum sentence against Angela Spaccia

Crime, Law and JusticeLaws and LegislationTheftCrimeJustice SystemCourts and the JudiciaryFinance

L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said prosecutors will seek the maximum sentence against Angela Spaccia, the former Bell official convicted Monday on 11 counts of misappropriating public funds and other corruption charges.

Prosecutors said Spaccia faces a prison term of more than 10 years. Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Hassett said he thought Spaccia would receive a sentence similar to the 10 to 12 years L.A. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy said she would give former city manager Robert Rizzo.

Spaccia, Hassett said, "was unrepentant and refused to accept any responsibility for her actions." That was in contrast to Rizzo, who pleaded no contest to 69 counts.

Marco Islas, 49, also known as Juror No. 1, said the guilty verdicts were not necessarily about the amount of money involved. 

"It was the way things were done," said Islas, a package delivery worker who lives in Los Angeles.

In a news conference, Lacey said that what Bell officials had engaged in was "grand theft paycheck."

"I am pleased the jury viewed this extremely complex case for precisely what it was -- greed," she said.

She said Bell was was the most significant case the district attorney's public corruption unit had ever prosecuted. She called the seven Bell officials who have been convicted "crooks masquerading as public servants."

Lacey said she planned to swear in members of the Artesia City Council on Monday night, and she hoped they were listening.

"Just because you have been elected doesn't give you the right to steal," she said.

Asked about comments by Spaccia's lawyer, Harland Braun, that the charges against her were political, Lacey replied, "I never saw it was a political prosecution. These were thieves."

Braun said he knew the odds were stacked against Spaccia.

"Public officials are held at higher standards," he said.

Braun had asked the judge to allow Spaccia to remain free on $350,000 bail until her Jan. 22 sentencing so she could make arrangements for her grown son, who suffered brain injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Hassett disagreed, saying the case was three years old. "The defendant has had plenty of time to prepare for this eventuality," he told the judge.

The judge remanded Spaccia to custody, saying the crimes carried a mandatory state prison sentence.

"I do think she has had ample time to prepare," Kennedy said.

Spaccia showed no emotion as the verdicts were read or when the bailiff placed handcuffs on her and escorted her out of the courtroom.

Her sister, who had assisted Braun during the trial, and her mother held hands and cried while the verdicts were read.

The jury returned the verdicts after eight days of deliberation. They were deadlocked 6-6 on one count of misappropriating public funds, in connection to a $77,500 loan Spaccia received from the city. She was found not guilty on one count of secretion of official records.

"I'm relieved to know that the jury saw through her act," Bell Councilman Ali Saleh said. "It is infuriating that she has shown no remorse for her actions. I hope the judge applies the full extent of the law at her."

"And while this verdict is another step in Bell's recovery," he said, "the work is far from over. We still have a long road ahead. Every day the council struggles to piece together our broken government, rebuild the public's trust and pay off the millions of dollars Spaccia and the rest of the Rizzo regime stole."

Bell Mayor Violeta Alvarez said she believes Spaccia was the brain behind "many of the schemes to loot the city’s treasury."

"She deserves to go to jail for many years," Alvarez said.

Councilman Nestor Enrique Valencia said in an email: “The people of Bell have a new hero in the Spaccia jury.... Eleven out of 13 count of GUILTY is the justice we have been waiting for."

Bell City Manager Doug Willmore said the guilty verdict marks a major milestone for the city and enables Bell to move forward.

In the last year, the city has passed its first annual budget in more than 20 years and is projected to increase its reserves from 2% in 2010 to 14% in fiscal 2014, Willmore said. 

In the trial, Spaccia tried to distance herself from Rizzo and show that she too was a victim. When prosecutors shook up the trial by showing that after a council resolution had passed, a phrase was added giving Rizzo what he claimed was more power, Spaccia was dismayed.

"That's pretty disgusting," she said. "I obviously trusted someone I should have not."

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jeff.gottlieb@latimes.com

ruben.vives@latimes.com

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