The defense claims Angela Spaccia was a victim, an assistant city manager who only followed orders issued by a greedy and authoritarian boss, Robert Rizzo.
The prosecution alleges she was an active accomplice, writing contracts to raise her pay to more than $500,000 and Rizzo's to more than $1 million.
In a bold move, Spaccia took the stand, telling the jury that before she joined Bell, she examined it's budget and was impressed at how Rizzo had turned the city around since he started there in 1993.
"The city had been on the brink of bankruptcy and since then he was putting a million dollars a year in a reserve account. Every year, he added to the reserves?that is incredibly unusual. He had everything on track," she said.
The city of working class residents erupted in protest when they learned that $5 million had vanished from the city coffers.
Spaccia testified that it was Rizzo who decided on salaries and that he told senior managers that he was guided by a philosophy.
"He did not want Bell to be a stepping stone. That he was going to pay everyone well enough so they would not have any incentive to leave," said Spaccia.
About the contracts, which never specifically named her and Rizzo as the recipients of big pay hikes, Spaccia testified, "I was the recipient of increases, but I did not authorize any of them."
In a stunning moment, Spaccia said her half-million-dollar salary was excessive. Her attorney asked her how much, and she replied, "I would say for the last two or three years, by twice what I needed to be paid."
"Everyone's greedy. Everyone takes money. There's no crime in taking too much money. It may be excessive. The issue is whether this is criminal conduct. Ethically, she basically accepted the money, and looking back on it, it looked like it was way too much money and she was also very preoccupied with personal problems, but she recognizes it. How many of you have turned down an excessive raise?" said Spaccia's attorney, Harland Braun.