Bell corruption trial: Luis Artiga acquitted on all charges

Former Bell Councilman Luis Artiga appears in court on Wednesday, March 20, 2013.
March 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former Bell Councilman Luis Artiga thanked God and his attorney as he walked out of the criminal courts building Wednesday a free man.

Artiga and five other Bell city officials were on trial for misappropriation of public funds from the blue-collar city. After more than a month of deliberations, Artiga was acquitted of all 12 counts of misappropriation and the jury also found two special allegations to be not true.

After the verdicts were read and Artiga was found not guilty, Artiga cried, looked at the jurors and said, "Thank you."

"It was a very humbling experience because at the moment you're life can be changed forever for worse," Artiga said outside the courtroom. "I was very thankful."

Appointed to the City Council in 2008, Artiga was its newest member. He said all along that he was not involved in the padding of salaries.

"He was not aware, he didn't vote on any of them, he was not there when the authorities were created, he was not there when the raise was given," said Artiga's attorney, George Mgdesyan. "When he came in, one of the council members had resigned. He came on board, he's been working for the city of Bell."

The defendants - Artiga, former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo, George Cole, George Mirabal and Victor Bello - faced 12 to 20 counts of misappropriation of public funds.

The other verdicts were as follows: Hernandez, Jacobo and Mirabal were found guilty on five counts and acquitted on 5 other counts. Cole was found guilty on two counts and acquitted on two other counts. Bello was found guilty on four counts and acquitted on four other counts.

Authorities allege Robert Rizzo, Bell's former city manager, came up with the plan to siphon money from the city and gave himself and City Council members hefty salaries.

A separate trial lies ahead for Rizzo and his assistant, Angela Spaccia.

Artiga said he never lost faith during the trial and the weeks of deliberations, but it was the worst time of his life.

"I regret the day I went into the council," Artiga said.

Artiga is still a resident and pastor of a church in Bell. He said he plans to continue helping people of the city.


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