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Bell corruption case: Defendants express support of plea

The former city councilmembers caught up in the Bell corruption scandal expressed their support regarding an offered plea deal Friday.
February 21, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
The former city councilmembers caught up in the Bell corruption scandal were offered a deal on Friday. The defendants are weighing their options and hoping for a deal that will keep them out of prison.

The district attorney is aiming to avoid a pricey retrial. It was one year ago that the five councilmembers got a mixed verdict on corruption charges, and the jury could not agree on 10 counts, leading to a mistrial.

The maximum sentence on the convictions could have sent the defendants to prison for as much as 8 years. In the plea deal, the maximum would be 4 years.

It is a package deal. All the defendants must accept it. The upside for the defendants is that the judge has the discretion to give them as little as probation.

One defendant, George Cole, has already said yes.

"People are evaluating. I can just state on the record for my client, we are not evaluating. We would accept the offer," said Cole's attorney, Ron O'Kay.

The attorneys for most of the other defendants are signaling strong support.

"In the end, I hope that we can resolve this short of trial. I think it is in everybody's best interest to do so," said Alex Kessell, the attorney for defendant George Mirabel.

Defendant Oscar Hernandez's attorney, Stanley Friedman, agrees.

"It would be an opportunity for them to have it set aside and move on with their lives. I think they're all good people," said Friedman.

The former councilmembers have until April 3 to take the plea or pursue a new trial.

The development follows a no contest plea by former city manager Robert Rizzo on 69 corruption charges. His former assistant, Angela Spaccia, is set for sentencing next week after she was convicted of 11 felonies.

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