LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge refused Tuesday to order a hearing to disclose details of her decision allowing former Bell city manager Robert Rizzo to plead no contest to 69 charges in a corruption case.
Attorney Harland Braun, who represents Rizzo's former co-defendant, Angela Spaccia, said Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy violated his client's rights by personally negotiating a plea bargain that requires Rizzo to testify for the prosecution during the trial of Spaccia, his former top assistant.
Braun also accused prosecutors of conspiring with Rizzo's lawyer to keep the press from finding out about the plea hearing in what he called one of the biggest public interest cases in recent years.
"It appears the district attorney wanted the case settled and didn't want its fingerprints on it," Braun said.
He objected to a closed-door meeting involving the judge, Rizzo, his lawyer and a prosecutor in her chambers without a court reporter making a transcript of what was said.
The judge insisted she did not negotiate a plea bargain, but she acknowledged the meeting in chambers before she came into court and took Rizzo's plea to all of the corruption charges against him.
She also told him that instead of being subject to a 70-year sentence, he would get 10 to 12 years which would run concurrently with anticipated federal charges. Braun said that was an inducement for his plea.
Prosecutors said they were shocked by Rizzo's decision and didn't notify the press because they didn't believe it was going to happen.
""It was a little surreal," said Deputy District Attorney Sean Hasset. "Even though we did have some notice before the plea, we did not negotiate it."
Judge Kennedy, who is presiding over Spaccia's trial, said the only thing she will require of Rizzo, if he testifies, is to tell the truth. She told Braun that Spaccia had no right to interfere with the plea.
Braun responded that the judge conditioned the plea on Rizzo's testimony against Spaccia, giving her standing to object and to demand a hearing on what occurred in a secret meeting.
"Your request is denied," the judge said.