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Bell corruption case: Angela Spaccia in hot seat

Ex-Bell official Angela Spaccia's emails were scrutinized during the prosecution's opening remarks in her corruption trial.
October 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former Bell Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia's emails were the subject of scrutiny Wednesday during the prosecution's opening statements in the Bell public corruption trial.

Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman showed the jury a series of emails, contracts and other documents. He told the jury that Spaccia, 55, boosted her own salary and gave herself additional benefits for at least several years behind the public's back.

Huntsman said that by the time Spaccia and her former boss, ex-Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, were arrested three years ago, they had been making upward of $560,000 and nearly $1.2 million, respectively, with their annual salaries, accrued sick and vacation days and loans.

Spaccia faces 13 corruption charges, including misappropriation of funds. If convicted, she faces up to 16 years in state prison.

Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 counts of fraud, conflict of interest and other charges. Earlier this month, he took a plea deal in which he will not face trial and instead be sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison.

Huntsman said Spaccia's involvement in the brazen municipal corruption scandal was documented in her own words.

In a 2009 email exchange with incoming Police Chief Randy Adams, Spaccia promised him they will enrich themselves as long as they don't get too greedy.

"I am looking forward to seeing you and taking all of Bell's money," Adams wrote Spaccia.

"We will all get fat together," Spaccia responded. "Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. So as long as we're not hogs all is well."

Spaccia also tells Adams in another email: "We have crafted our agreements carefully so we do not draw attention to our pay."

Adams was never charged in the case. However, five former Bell council members were convicted last March of fraud charges after jurors found they paid themselves six-figure salaries for sitting on boards and commissions that did no work. One council member was acquitted, and some charges that jurors couldn't decide on remain to be retried.

Spaccia's attorney, Harland Braun, said Wednesday that his client thought her salary was legitimate because Rizzo told her it was.

Braun also said that Spaccia's arrest three years ago was politically motivated as then-Attorney General Jerry Brown and ex-Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley seized upon the scandal months before an election.

Brown is now California's governor; Cooley lost a bid to become the state's attorney general to Kamala Harris.

Spaccia began working for the city of Bell back in 2003 as the assistant city manager.

According to Braun, Spaccia plans to testify in her own defense. Also, Rizzo is expected to testify as a prosecution witness against Spaccia.

Spaccia claims she is innocent, blaming it all on her former boss. Rizzo, on the other hand, is expected to testify that Spaccia was the mastermind behind it all.

The city of Bell is home to some 35,000 residents, many of whom live below the federal poverty line. After the corruption scandal broke, the city held a recall election and threw out all of the city council members. By then, Rizzo and Spaccia had been fired.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.