A pool of 73 potential jurors has begun screening to serve in the trial of former Bell assistant city manager Angela Spaccia, who's accused of helping to illegally boost salaries and mis-spend millions of dollars of public money.
The potential jurors were given 17-page questionaires that asked about their familiarity with the Bell case and whether or not they'd formed any opinions about the participants, including ex city manager Robert Rizzo, who made a surprise guilty plea last week.
Spaccia's defense attorney Harland Braun asked the judge to hold a hearing Tuesday on whether Rizzo's plea deal with the court -- that included a promise of a reduced prison term in exchange for admitting guilt -- was illegal.
"We are concerned that the judge was engaging in plea bargaining with Rizzo," Braun said, which he said was improper for a judge.
"It's clear that there was bargaining going on in this case, and it occurred in private, in closed doors, and what we want to do is have a hearing, as to what happened in those private sessions," he said.
Braun said he'd also like the court to order Rizzo polygraphed and questioned before he's allowed to testify at Spaccia's trial.
Rizzo plead no contest to 69 corruption counts and was promised a sentence of not less than 10 and not more than 12 years in prison. Rizzo's defense attorney said Rizzo was also ready to plead guilty in an unannounced federal tax and conspiracy case, so long as prison sentences in both cases could be served simultaneously.
-- Eric Leonard at Criminal Courts in Downtown L.A. (@leonardfiles)