Bell verdict: Jury sent home, no decision on more deliberations
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The jury in the Bell corruption trial was sent home after lunch on Wednesday and no decision was made whether to force them to resume deliberations on the remaining undecided counts.
The jurors handed Judge Kathleen Kennedy several questions after lunch, but she postponed further discussion about continued deliberations. The jury was ordered to return Thursday at 9 a.m.
After a four-week trial and 18 days of deliberations, the jury delivered a mixed bag of verdicts for the so-called Bell Six. The jury found five of the defendants guilty on some charges but cleared them of others, and acquitted another, Luis Artiga, entirely.
The jury remained undecided on about half the counts the defendants faced. Several jurors said they did not believe there was anything else that could be done to help them reach a verdict, but four said they could use additional information about state laws.
The jury told Kennedy that the vote was 9 to 3 on the remaining counts, but did not indicate whether they were leaning toward guilty or not guilty. ‘As much as I hate to do this, I think the court needs to inquire further,’ Kennedy told them after the verdicts were read. ‘I know you thought this was going to be the end and I was going to be releasing you.’
FULL COVERAGE: Bell corruption trial They took a lunch break and returned at 2 p.m.
It is unclear what questions the jurors asked the judge.
‘We are in receipt of your questions, but we are not ready to respond to you quite yet,’ Kennedy said before sending them home.
Luis Artiga, the sole Bell councilman acquitted on all corruption charges, walked out of the courtroom a free man.
He faced 12 counts of misappropriation of public funds and a sentence of up to 16 years.
Artiga, a pastor in Bell, was appointed to the City Council long after salaries for council members had been boosted, a point his attorney underscored in closing arguments.
‘I want to thank God. I want to thank my family,’ Artiga said at a news conference after his acquittal. ‘I said from the beginning the truth will set me free.’
As to his colleagues, he said, ‘I pray the Lord would be with them.’
He also thanks the jurors ‘from the bottom of my heart.’
City officials In Bell said the verdicts signified a ‘long-awaited day of justice’ to the city’s residents, according to a statement Wednesday.
But Mayor Ali Saleh said the working-class community was waiting to see how the rest of the case would play out. Former City Administrator Robert Rizzo -- whose $800,000-a-year salary sparked the scandal -- and his former assistant Angela Spaccia, who earned nearly $400,000 annually, will both stand trial at a later date.
‘While today’s guilty ruling for five of the Bell Six helps bring some closure and justice to our community, there are still trial cases which remain pending — the trials of those remaining assailants that in my view plundered our city’s resources and shackled Bell’s hardworking families with an overwhelming tax burden,’ Saleh said in a statement.
-- Richard Winton, Ruben Vives and Corina Knoll