A pastor at the Bell Community Church, Luis Artiga was the only defendant to leave the "Bell 6" corruption trial a free man. Conan Nolan reports from Downtown Bell for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 20, 2013.
As a tearful Luis Artiga clutched a tissue in court late Wednesday morning, listening to his verdicts being read, he already knew his fate.
A month ago -- four days after his birthday -- the former Bell councilman began writing the words he planned to say after being declared innocent.
"On Feb. 19, I was convinced that I needed to write a not-guilty statement and I don't have Plan B. I was going to have Plan A," Artiga said outside of court.
"The Plan A was coming here, and coming out and going to my home and serving my community, which I have been serving for over 30 years, and staying there and helping my community. I'll be working, giving not my 100, but my 200 percent for the community of Bell," he said.
Artiga, 52, was charged with 12 counts of misappropriation between 2008 and 2010. He sat tearfully in court as the court clerk read each "not guilty."
"To those members of the community of Bell … who believed in my innocence, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless you," Artiga said.
Outside of court, Artiga's attorney elaborated on his client's innocence:
"I believe the evidence was clear that my client, when he took office, he didn't vote on these authorities. He didn't know about these authorities. He knew he was a full-time employee. He worked there. He worked hard for the city of Bell. He didn't vote on the raises. All he did was work for the residents of Bell. …He did nothing but good for the people of Bell."
After the verdicts were read, Artiga spoke to them in court.
"I told them that I'm going to be praying God is going to be with them. Wherever they go, God is still in control," he said.
A leader at the Bell Community Church, known as "Pastor Luis," Artiga was supported by some in the community Wednesday who said he did not deserve to go to jail.
His defense attorney, George McDesyan, argued Artiga never voted on compensation increases or on the creation of boards that the prosecutor said rarely met, if ever. Still, he received $60,000 to $100,000 pay for the council position.
Artiga said he would be praying for his colleagues who were found guilty Wednesday and remain on trial on additional charges.
Asked if he had any regrets, Artiga said he wished he had never joined the Bell City Council.
"Ever being on the council, yes sir, I regret the day I went onto the council," Artiga said.
NBC4's Conan Nolan contributed to this report.