Clock ticking on 4-year prison offer for ex-Bell council members

Bell council deal
A defense attorney (second from left) stands with former Bell City Council members Oscar Hernandez, left, Victor Bello, George Cole, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal in February.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Five former Bell council members — all convicted but facing a retrial on additional corruption-related charges — must decide by Thursday whether to take a plea bargain that would their cap their potential prison time at four years. 

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office offered the deal on the condition that George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo, Victor Bello and George Mirabal each agree to it.

If not, the offer would be taken off the table. Whether prosecutors stick to that condition remains to be seen. 

At a hearing in February, in which the council members asked for more time to consider the offer, Cole’s attorney said his client was ready to take it because of his poor health.


Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy already could sentence the council members to eight years in prison based on their convictions for misappropriation of public funds.

They could face addition charges if convicted in a second trial.

The ex-council members were convicted of boosting their salaries as high as $100,000 a year by being paid to serve on city boards that seldom, if ever, met.

If they refuse the deal, they could face trial before a judge who has made it clear that she believes the case should be settled.


Kennedy has said she would sentence the council members individually, so they could get different sentences. The judge does not have to give them prison time.

The former council members would also face paying restitution. Bell has calculated that Mirabal owes $242,293, Jacobo $242,229, Hernandez $241,331, Bello $177,634 and Cole $77,644.

The hearing Thursday is the start of a busy couple of weeks for the Bell defendants. Angela Spaccia, the former assistant city manager and convicted on 11 corruption charges, is scheduled for sentencing April 10.

Robert Rizzo, the former chief administrative officer, is set to be sentenced on federal tax fraud charges April 14. Two days later, he will be sentenced on 69 felony counts for his role in Bell. He pleaded no contest to the charges last year.   

Twitter: @gottliebjeff

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