The salaries of top administrators and city politicians only began to take off in Bell when Angela Spaccia was hired to help run the working-class town, a prosecutor told jurors.
Until Spaccia arrived in 2001, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman said, salaries in the city were modest and Bells’ chief administrator, Robert Rizzo, was making only $200,000 a year -- a fraction of the nearly $800,000 annual salary he was commanding when he was forced out in 2010.
Huntsman said that when Spaccia was hired, everything in the city changed.
The corruption trial, which moves into its second day Thursday, will turn on whether jurors decide that Spaccia helped orchestrate the wrongdoing in Bell or was a victim of Rizzo, her boss.
Spaccia’s attorney contends the trial is a "political case" leveraged by an ambitious district attorney who was running for state attorney general and realized it could win him votes.
He said video from Spaccia's arraignment was used in a campaign commercial by then-Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, and his statement that Bell was "corruption on steroids" became one of his pet slogans.
Spaccia was the second in command in Bell and is now facing 13 corruption-related charges in the case. She had pleaded not guilty and is free on bail.
Robert Rizzo, her former boss, pleaded no contest to 69 felonies this month and now faces a likely 10- to 12-year prison sentence. Rizzo has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and could be called as a witness in the government’s case against Spaccia, who Rizzo's attorney claims is the “mastermind” of the wronging in the Los Angeles County city.