A state appellate court panel Tuesday rejected the latest appeal filed on behalf of former Bell assistant city administrator Angela Spaccia, who was ordered to pay about $8 million in restitution to the city after being convicted of charges stemming from what Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey called “the most significant public corruption case” ever prosecuted by her office’s Public Integrity Division.
The three-justice panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected the defense’s challenge to the validity of Spaccia’s conviction on six counts against her, ruling that the defense’s argument is “to put it plainly, frivolous.”
The appeal marks Spaccia’s second challenge to her December 2013 conviction on 11 counts, five of which were subsequently reversed.
Spaccia was charged along with former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and former council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, George Cole and former Councilman Victor Bello, who eventually each wound up pleading no contest.
She was initially sentenced to 11 years and eight months in state prison, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy saying then that she believed Spaccia was a “con artist” and rejecting the defense’s claim that the former city executive — who had previously held management positions with five other public agencies in California and Idaho — was a victim of Rizzo.
She was subsequently re-sentenced in October 2017 to 10 years in state prison after a state appellate court panel reversed her conviction on five counts of misappropriation of public funds after finding that jurors received erroneous jury instructions on those charges. She had already been released from prison with an ankle monitor by the time of her re-sentencing, when she was once again ordered to make restitution to the city.
After her re-sentencing before another judge two years ago, Spaccia complained, “I didn’t steal the Maserati, so why do I have to pay for it?”
That said, she has been complying with the court order, “making good faith payments every month,” Spaccia said then.
In the latest ruling, the appellate court panel rejected the defense’s contention that the restitution award is improper, finding that it is “adequately supported” by her conviction on the other counts — four counts of conflict of interest by a public official and one count each of conspiracy to misappropriate public funds and secreting an official record.
The justices noted that the corruption scandal erupted in 2010 after it was discovered that Rizzo, Spaccia and five city council members were “receiving astronomical salaries and fringe benefits, which they had taken care to conceal from their constituents.”
The panel noted that Spaccia’s salary escalated from $102,310 annually in 2003 to more than $340,000 annually in 2010, and that Rizzo’s had risen from about $250,000 annually in 2006 to more than $700,000 a year in 2010.
Rizzo was sentenced to 12 years behind bars and ordered to repay $8.8 million.
Hernandez, Jacobo, Mirabal, Cole and Bello accepted plea deals in which they pleaded no contest to two felony counts of misappropriation of public funds. Their sentences ranged from 180 days of home confinement to two years in prison.
Jurors exonerated former Councilman Luis Artiga of all 12 charges against him.
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