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In response to the multiple guilty verdicts found against former City of Bell council members Oscar Hernández, Teresa Jocobo, George Cole, Victor Bello and George Mirabal, Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) released the following statement:
"After a long, painful ordeal that has taken its toll on the City of Bell and its residents, I am cautiously optimistic. I am happy that justice has prevailed and that these public officials must finally pay the price for their criminal activity.
"I feel that the hard-working people of Bell have been partially vindicated, by these guilty verdicts and it is my hope that all of those involved be given stiff sentences for their violation of law and the City's trust. I also await the trial for Rizzo and Spaccia and hope the jury is not at all sympathetic of the two administrators because the reality is that Bell residents will continue to carry the burden of the millions of dollars that were misappropriated for a long time long after the cases are over.
"Let's not forget that those who committed these crimes are more than ordinary citizens. When they took their oath-of-office, they became extraordinary citizens by choice, with a high moral and legal responsibility to the people of Bell. They have shattered that bond and now the new leadership must pick up the pieces and build a new, transparent government that will heal the city and return the hands of government back to the residents of the City of Bell."
Cristina Garcia is a co-founder of the community group Bell Association to Stop The Abuse (BASTA) that led the recall charge and forced a new election in the city of Bell. She was elected to the State Assembly in November 2012.
Bell mayor Ali Saleh also released a statement:
"While [Tuesday's] guilty ruling for five of the Bell Six helps bring some closure and justice to our community, there are still trial cases which remain pending -- the trials of those remaining assailants that in my view plundered our City's resources and shackled Bell's hardworking families with an overwhelming tax burden.
"Our community will rest when the legal process has come full circle, and justice has been served. Until then, my colleagues and I will continue to look toward the future. We will continue to rebuild Bell City Hall and ensure that transparency and open government flourish in all our functions.
"We will remain focused on the tasks which we were elected to accomplish - establish a model local government while building a town that residents are proud to call home".
Published: March 21, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 49