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Bell corruption case: Rizzo's sentencing postponed

The sentencing of former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo was postponed Wednesday until April 16.
March 12, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
The sentencing of former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo was postponed Wednesday until April 16. But now, there's a possibility he'll wind up on the witness stand when his former assistant Angela Spaccia is sentenced.

Rizzo admits he did wrong. He plead no contest to 69 corruption related counts, but never has he had to testify under oath about specifics or Spaccia's role. That may change.

Spaccia was convicted on 11 charges. The District Attorney's office wants both defendants to serve 12 years behind bars.

Spaccia's attorney Harland Braun says he will compel Rizzo to take the stand at Spaccia's sentencing in a bid to show Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy that Spaccia is not as guilty as Rizzo.

"When it came to real fraud, out and out fraud, he never went to Ms. Spaccia to have anything to do with it, so it will show their differential role," said Braun.

If Rizzo takes the stand, Bell's city attorney says he plans to ask questions, too, particularly about payback.

He says Bell residents, 28 percent who live below the poverty line, were smacked with $108 million in new debt due in part to the defendants' oversized salaries. That's over a million dollars a year for Rizzo.

Bell residents say they also want to grill Rizzo.

"I would just want to know how in the heck he could do this to this community of people that are hardworking, honest," said Joe Carmona of Bell.

"I work for my money honestly, so why did he have to do that to us?" said Veronica Ramirez of Bell.

Regarding the topic of penalties, Rizzo's attorney James Spertus says it's Rizzo who deserves a lighter sentence.

"He accepted responsibility. He cooperated, and he did everything right after doing wrong," said Spertus.

What seems wrong now to Bell residents is another delay in Rizzo's sentencing Wednesday. Judge Kennedy agrees.

"Nothing happens, it would really be nice to actually do and conclude one of these cases in my lifetime, maybe," said Kennedy.

Wednesday's snag involved Rizzo's separate case in federal court where he plead to tax fraud.

The plan is to allow him to be sentenced there first and serve his time for both cases in a federal institution.

Spaccia is set to be sentenced on March 21. If he is successful in questioning Rizzo, Braun says, Spaccia could get as little as three years instead of 12.

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