Five former Bell officials convicted in corruption trial

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The jury in the long-running Bell corruption trial finally reached a verdict today.

Former Bell City Council members Luis Artiga, left, Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, George Cole and former Mayor Oscar Hernandez stand as the jury leaves the courtroom for lunch on Wednesday. Closing arguments were underway. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Five former Bell city officials were convicted of misappropriating public funds by taking six-figure salaries for serving on four city boards that rarely met.

But jurors acquitted the officials of some charges, and one former councilman was exonerated altogether.

Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal were each convicted of five counts of misappropriation of public funds and acquitted of five others.

Former Councilman George Cole was convicted of two counts and acquitted of two others. Former Councilman Victor Bello was convicted of four counts and acquitted of four others.

Former Councilman Luis Artiga was the only defendant to be completely exonerated, with jurors acquitting him of all 12 counts against him.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told Artiga, who cried as the verdicts were announced, that he was free to go.

KCRW’s Eric Roy spoke with LA Times reporter Jeff Gottlieb, who’s been covering the case for several weeks now:

The jury did not manage to reach verdicts on the remaining counts against the five other defendants. The panel’s foreman told Kennedy the jury was split 9-3 on each count, but did not say whether the jury was leaning toward conviction or acquittal.

The jury has been deliberating for about two weeks.

Defense attorneys argued that their clients were wrongly accused, and that they worked hard for the city and earned their high salaries.