Sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay millions of dollars in restitution in connection with a massive public corruption scandal, former Bell administrator Robert Rizzo walked to his car Wednesday a defeated man.
“I should have realized the salaries were way out of whack and taken steps to bring them back in line, but it just got away from me,” Rizzo said in an brief chat with The Times.
“There’s not much I could do after a period of time.”
As he spoke about a block from the downtown Los Angeles courthouse where his fate had been sealed moments earlier, a man recognized him and shouted out, “Taxpayer justice.”
“I can’t go anywhere,” Rizzo murmured.
In what could be Rizzo’s final moment in the spotlight, the former city leader spoke publicly during his sentencing, briefly offering contrition for his wrongdoing in working-class Bell.
Speakly softly, and staring straight ahead as he did, Rizzo said he was “very, very sorry.”
“If I could go back and make changes. I would,” Rizzo said. “I’ve done it a million times in my mind.”
But his remorse did little to alter what Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy had predicted would be his sentence.
“Mr. Rizzo, you did some very, very bad things for a very long time,” she told Rizzo before ordering him to spend 12 years in prison.
Rizzo was sentenced earlier this week to 33 months in federal prison for income tax fraud.
Because Kennedy said Rizzo could serve his sentences concurrently, the former city boss could be a free man in six years with time off for good behavior.
Rizzo was ordered to surrender May 30, and will begin his stint behind bars in a federal penitentiary.