Bell city councilman Mirabal sentenced to jail

BELL, Calif. (KABC) -- A new turn in the corruption saga that scandalized the city of Bell: Former Bell city councilman George Mirabal was sentenced Friday to a year in jail in a four-year suspended sentence. That's not what the prosecutor wanted.

The District Attorney, as well as many Bell residents, wanted the maximum possible sentence: four years in prison.

"You not only kicked a community down on its luck; you kicked it repeatedly and forcefully," said Bell Mayor Nestor Valencia.

The mayor broke down as he spoke for the 35,000 residents of the city, victims of corruption.

Of five councilmembers who accepted a plea deal, George Mirabal, with five felonies for misappropriation of public funds, is the first to face sentencing.

"I've heard many times that pride comes before the fall, and I think that best describes my situation," said Mirabal in court Friday. "I really thought we were doing great things in the city of Bell."

With the city's treasury plundered, Bell residents were taken to the brink of bankruptcy. Schemes to inflate salaries were hatched by the former city manager, Robert Rizzo, and assistant manager Angela Spaccia, both now in prison.

Mirabal, who had served the longest time in city government, should have known to blow the whistle, says L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Sean Hassett.

"Borrowing $100 million in bonds -- $100 million -- the best way to say it: gross mismanagement," said Hassett.

But there is a bigger picture here, says the judge: A change in the law that made corruption difficult to prove, and the fact that Rizzo and Spaccia were so manipulative.

"It seems that the city council did not realize that they had the power over Rizzo," said Judge Kennedy.

The sentence: a four-year suspended prison term. Mirabal will go to county jail for less than a year instead. He's now officially a felon.

It's unclear how much time Mirabal will actually spend behind bars. He's scheduled to surrender on July 25.

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