Judge Postpones Sentencing In Bell Corruption Case

By City News Service

Pending a retrial, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge refused Monday to set a sentencing date for five former elected officials in Bell who were convicted of bilking thousands of dollars from the town of about 35,000 people just southeast of downtown.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy said sentencing could be put off until former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and ex-City Council members George Mirabal, Teresa Jacobo, George Cole and Victor Bello are retried on certain charges.

“The sentence might be different, depending on how many counts are involved,” Kennedy said.

All three were convicted in March of misappropriating public funds by collecting exorbitant salaries. But jurors deadlocked on a handful of counts and Kennedy declared a mistrial on those charges.

Prosecutors are set to retry the five on those counts. They argued Monday that sentencing would expedite any potential appeal on the first set of charges and allow for a more efficient process overall.

But Kennedy rejected what she called a “piecemeal approach” and instead set a date for another pretrial hearing on Oct. 4, with an eye toward a second trial early next year.

The judge also raised the possibility of a years-long appeals process.

“Who’s to say the California Supreme Court won’t be involved,” Kennedy asked, noting that an appeal to the state’s highest court might take four years to resolve.

On March 20, Hernandez, Jacobo and Mirabal were each convicted of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five others. Cole was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others, while Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.

The panel completely exonerated former Councilman Luis Artiga of all 12 counts against him.

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August 1, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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