Jurors weighing the fate of Bell’s second highest-ranking administrator are set to begin a third day of deliberations Tuesday in a case that marks a final chapter in a municipal corruption case in one of Los Angeles County’s poorest cities.
The jury will resume deliberations at 8 a.m., an hour earlier than usual, but will adjourn at 11 a.m. to accommodate a juror's scheduling problems.
Angela Spaccia is being tried on 13 counts of felony corruption, including misappropriation of public funds. Prosecutors contend she and her boss, Robert Rizzo, raided the town’s treasury by giving themselves huge salaries and extraordinary retirements benefits, even as the city was starting to run out of money.
Spaccia, though, told jurors that she was a victim of Rizzo’s scheming and that she never asked for the oversized paychecks.
“I just did what I was told and accepted it,” she testified
By the time she was forced out in 2010, Spaccia was earning $564,000 while Rizzo’s salary had swollen to more than $1 million.
Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 felony corruption charges and is expected to be sentenced to 10-12 years in prison when he returns to court next year. Through his attorney, Rizzo offered to testify against Spaccia, but he was never called to the witness stand.
Spaccia claims that she wasn’t even in Bell when some of the wrongdoing took place – away from the office for 18 months to care for her ailing father and her son following a motorcycle accident, and then working as the interim city manager in neighboring Maywood.
Under questioning from prosecutors, Spaccia conceded that she continued to collect her full paycheck without losing a single day of vacation during the 18 months she was off, and even continued to accrue sick and vacation time as well.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman told jurors in closing arguments that Spaccia was a “liar” and a thief who positioned herself to “suck” money from the city.
Huntsman said that Spaccia’s effort to draw up a supplemental retirement fund that would have paid her $8 million over the course of her life was “perhaps the greediest” plan in the history of Los Angeles County.
Harland Braun, Spaccia’s lawyer, offered a contrasting view of his client as a victim – first of Rizzo, and then of then-Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who Braun said used the case as political ammunition in his run for state attorney general.
"This lady, maybe she had bad judgment sometimes, maybe she shouldn't have taken the high salaries … how many of you if offered a salary would say, 'I'm not worth it, I'll take less'?" Braun asked.
"It's certainly no crime to accept generosity," he said.