Dozens of potential jurors in the criminal trial of former Bell administrator Angela Spaccia are being asked to wade through a 93-question form that asks about their knowledge of the corruption case in the southeast Los Angeles County city.
Beyond the standard questions about social media habits and feelings toward law enforcement, potential jurors are asked directly if they are familiar with the city of Bell or have any connection of the town.
Jurors are even asked how close to the city they live.
One question asks directly if jurors have heard of Robert Rizzo, whether they’ve ever seen him and if they have ever discussed the former Bell city administrator with others.
The form asks the same series of questions about Spaccia, who was second-in-command in the city when Rizzo was in power.
In another question, jurors are asked if they have an opinion of the Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the Bell corruption case. The Times broke the story about the huge salaries in the small, working-class city.
Spaccia is one of eight former administrators and elected officials criminally charged in the Bell corruption case, all accused in varying degrees of looting the city treasury by taking huge salaries and generous benefits.
Rizzo pleaded no contest last week to 69 felony charges, and five of six former Bell council members were convicted earlier this year of misappropriating funds and are awaiting trial on related charges. One ex-council member, a preacher in Bell, was acquitted.
Spaccia’s trial is expected to begin late this month. Monday was the first day of jury selection.
Though she faces 13 corruption-related charges in the Bell scandal, Spaccia’s attorney has painted her as a victim of Rizzo’s scheming.
As Bell’s assistant city manager, Spaccia was paid an outsized paycheck for the job, but it was far less than Rizzo’s $800,000 annual salary and the nearly $500,000 salary of Bell’s police chief, whose contract prosecutors say she helped draft and conceal from the public.
In court documents filed by prosecutors, Spaccia emerges as a significant player in various schemes to raid the city treasury and enrich Rizzo and herself -- but also as a person who often deferred to her boss.
Spaccia, prosecutors allege, worked with Rizzo to come up with a generous retirement package for the two of them. Although Spaccia was the main contact with the bank that set up the fund, she often said she needed to check with Rizzo before making decisions, according to the grand jury testimony of Alan Pennington, the bank employee who helped set up the account.
But Rizzo says Spaccia was the real mastermind behind the corruption at City Hall. His attorney said Rizzo will cooperate with prosecutors in their case against his former assistant.
That leaves Spaccia alone to face the most serious charges in the sweeping corruption scandal.