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Former Bell City Manger Robert Riszo stunned legal experts on Friday when he pleaded “no contest” in one of the largest public corruption cases in United States history.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that Rizzo had pleaded no contest today to all 69 counts and is expected to be sentenced to the longest prison term for public corruption in the Public Integrity Division’s history.
Rizzo’s no contest plea was an open plea to Judge Kathleen Kennedy and was not a negotiated settlement with prosecutors.
“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.
Rizzo’s surprise plea comes less than a week before jury selection begins in the massive public corruption trial.
Trial is still scheduled to begin Monday for Rizzo’s co-defendant, former assistant city manager Angela Spaccia.
Rizzo, who was being paid nearly $800,000 annually before he resigned in July 2010, was charged with a variety of schemes that defrauded the City of Bell of millions of dollars, including writing his own employment contracts that were never approved by the City Council.
Judge Kennedy said she will sentence Rizzo to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 12 years in state prison when he returns on March 12, 2014, for sentencing. D.A. Lacey noted that Rizzo’s prison sentence will be the longest for anyone convicted of public corruption since PID was established.
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