Ex-Bell City Councilman Released Less Than One Month Into Jail Sentence

George Mirabal pleaded no contest in April to two felony counts of of misappropriation of public funds and was sentenced on July 11 to one year in jail, and five years probation

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    Former Bell council member George Mirabal was released from prison just weeks into his sentence on Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014.

    A former city of Bell councilman convicted of public corruption was released from jail Sunday, less a month into a one-year sentence due to severe jail overcrowding, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

    George Mirabal, 64, was the first former Bell city councilman sentenced in a massive municipal scandal in which city officials pocketed sky-high salaries.

    Mirabal pleaded no contest in April to two felony counts of of misappropriation of public funds and was sentenced on July 11 to one year in jail, and five years probation, officials said.

    Mirabal was also ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service and pay more than $242,000 in restitution.

    Prosecutors called his $100,000 a year a salary "a drastic departure from the expected pay of an honest council member whose sole goal is public service."

    An audit by the state controller's office found Bell city officials illegally raised property taxes, business license fees, sewage fees and trash collection fees; illegally diverted gas taxes and other state and federal funds; and issued $50 million in voter-approved municipal bonds for a public park that was never built.

    During their trials, former city councilmembers were accused of sitting on boards that rarely met, while still receiving their six-figure salaries.

    Mirabal began serving his time on July 25, but was released as part of a percentage program meant to ease overcrowding in the county’s jails.

    Officials said jail overcrowding has become a serious problem in the state.

    The Los Angeles Times reported more than 13,500 inmates are released early each month in California to relieve crowding, a 34 percent increase over the last three years.

    Part of the reason for this increase has to do with Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison realignment program, which began in 2011 and shifts the responsibility for housing and supervising some prisoners from the state to counties.

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