Robert Rizzo, the former city administrator in Bell, abruptly ended his criminal case today by pleading no contest to all 69 counts he was facing in a trial that was due to begin this coming Monday. District Attorney Jackie Lacey said that is expected to be sentenced to the longest prison term for public corruption in the history of the DA's public integrity division. Lacey's office said that the plea before Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy "was not a negotiated settlement with prosecutors." Kennedy indicated she will sentence Rizzo to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 12 years in state prison at sentencing on March 12, 2014.
“Although we were prepared to go to trial and felt confident we could convict Mr. Rizzo of all charges, we are pleased he chose to admit his guilt and accept full responsibility for the irreparable harm he caused the people of Bell,” Lacey said in a statement.
Jury selection was expected to begin Monday. The trial will go forward for co-defendant Angela Spaccia, the former assistant city manager in Bell.
Rizzo resigned in July 2010 from the post that paid him a stunning $800,000 annually.
Henry Meier at the Daily Journal reported today that the plea will lead to Rizzo probably serving five to six years in prison. He faced a maximum of 70 years if he had gone to trial and been convicted, the Daily Journal says. The deal brokered by Rizzo's attorney James W. Spertus allows him to avoid admitting any wrongdoing that could hurt Rizzo's case in the civil case brought by the state attorney general's office on behalf of the city of Bell, says the DJ. As part of the deal, Rizzo was required to admit that he could have to pay as much as $3.2 million in restitution. Spertus also said in court that the U.S. attorney's office has agreed to let Rizzo plead to a federal conspiracy or tax charge.
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