Jury deliberations began Friday in the corruption trial of six former Bell city officials accused of stealing taxpayer money to fund their six-figure incomes. The jurors return Monday morning to resume deliberations. Patrick Healy reports from downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2013.
Attorneys finished closing arguments Friday morning in a trial involving six former Bell city officials charged with misappropriating public funds in a scheme that prosecutors said "fooled the city" south of downtown Los Angeles.
The case went to the jury at 10:30 a.m. after two days of closing arguments. Testimony began Jan. 25 in the trial involving the city's former mayor and five former council members.
"We know they buried their heads in the sand, but kept their hands out," prosecutor Ed Miller said Friday.
He told jurors the accused ex-city officials "want to fool you just like they fooled the city of Bell" when they gave themselves large salaries. They allegedly paid themselves "illegal salaries for sitting on four boards" that did little, if any, work, according to prosecutors.
But defense attorneys argued the defendants worked many hours for the money. They claimed the city officials relied on the city attorney and an independent auditor to establish salary figures -- more than $100,000 per year.
Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 65, former Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo, 55, and former Councilman George Mirabal, 63, are each charged with 20 counts of misappropriating public funds between January 2006 and July 2010.
Former Councilman Victor Bello, 54, is charged with 16 counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2009, while former Councilman Luis Artiga, 52, is charged with 12 counts of misappropriation between January 2008 and July 2010 and former Councilman Cole, 63, is charged with eight counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2007.
Several Bell residents attended each day of the trial.
"They broke the law," said observer Alfred Areyan. "They violated the law. This is where justice should prevail."
Deliberations were expected to continue into Friday afternoon.
Former city manager Robert Rizzo and his assistant are awaiting trial separately on corruption-related charges.