L.A. bribery trial spotlights City Hall corruption in run-up to election day
By Robert Barnes, LA City Council Member
February 23, 2011 08:17 pm
From left to right at the end of the day: Council President Herb Wesson, Councilmember Mike Bonin, former City Councilman David Ryu, and Councilmember Jose Huizar (above) listen as they give their closing arguments on the case against Councilman Jose Huizar.
Robert Barnes — AP
It was not the first time there was a trial in the City Hall bribery scandal. The first trial ended in a mistrial in 1997, and it was not until the second trial in 2000 that a guilty verdict was returned.
Afterwards, with the cases of Councilman Jose Huizar and former Council President Herb Wesson pending, Council President Herb Wesson took the Fifth on the opening day of the second trial. He did not testify, but did call as a witness a man he believed could make a compelling case to the jury of the corruption inside City Hall.
This will be Wesson’s seventh trial in the corruption scandal that cost him three-and-a-half terms as councilman, and it’s his second to conclude. The three-man jury found him guilty of seven of eight corruption counts and acquitted him on 13 other charges.
The trial got under way on Monday, the 22nd. With testimony from eight current and former City Council members and many more witnesses, the day was long, hot and emotional. After the parties rested their cases early Tuesday morning, the jury of 12 people deliberated for about nine and a half hours before reaching a verdict in the case of Councilman Jose Huizar.
By then, it was after midnight.
Though it was clear that the prosecution and the defense had a better case than in the first trial, the jury had a difficult time in the case of Councilman Huizar. It took them about nine and a half hours to reach a verdict in their deliberations. As one of the jurors, former Councilwoman Maria Elena Durazo, said in court, the trial of Huizar “was difficult.”
The first four jurors all said they had not made up their minds about whether Huizar was guilty or innocent. But when they heard that one of the defendants, former City Council President Herb Wesson, did not