Two former officials of the scandal-plagued City of Bell got a bit of a break from the judge Tuesday at a pretrial hearing on their charges of misappropriation of public funds.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy dismissed some of the felony charges against former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former Bell City Councilman Luis Artiga.
She ruled neither man knew they were breaking the law by accepting cash loans from then-City Manager Robert Rizzo.
Both of them claimed the judge's ruling validated their claims of innocence.
“We never do nothing wrong against our community. We always work for our community 100 percent,” said Hernandez.
“As I said in the beginning of the case, the truth will set me free,” said Artiga.
Both men, however, still face felony charges for accepting excessive pay for sitting on city board and commission that rarely met.
They are among six former Bell elected officials who were charged in a massive corruption case.
They are all accused of bilking the city out of millions of dollars.
A central figure in the case was the former city manager, Robert Rizzo, whose attorney Tuesday also asked that charges against him and assistant city manager Angela Spaccia be dismissed.
They were charged with misappropriation of funds, conflict of interest and falsifying city records.
Attorney Harland Braun argued for dismissal of at least one of the charges, claiming Rizzo did not have criminal intent in directing business toward a horse business in which he was a partner.
The judge did not seem inclined to accept the defense position.
Braun claimed the judge was biased against his client.
“She’s so prejudiced against us, I hope we can get a jury that is fair-minded because we don’t have a fair judge,” Braun said after the hearing.