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Misconduct found on jury in Calif. corruption trial

LOS ANGELES The judge presiding over the corruption case of several former officials of a Southern California city kicked a juror off the panel Thursday, citing misconduct, CBS Los Angeles station KNX-AM reports.

The juror was dismissed after she said she had done research on the Internet and spoken to her daughter about the case.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman initially told reporters Thursday that jurors may be divided over whether former officials of Bell, Calif., stole public funds to pay themselves exorbitant salaries.

The dismissed juror will be replaced with an alternate, and the jury will be instructed to start deliberations over. Thursday had marked the fifth day of deliberation in the case.

Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, former Vice Mayor Teresa Jacobo, and former City Council members Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole, and George Mirabal could face prison on felony charges of misappropriation of public funds.

The trial began Jan. 24 with the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office describing the defendants as greedy in their opening statements.

Prosecutors told jurors the ex-council members stole millions from city coffers by serving on fake boards that often convened for only minutes.

During the trial, the defendants testified that they didn't realize what they were doing was wrong.

Former officials blame ex-Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo for orchestrating the scheme. Rizzo and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia also face fraud charges and will be tried separately.

Their trial date has been set for April 1, but Rizzo's lawyer asked for a change of venue due to pretrial publicity.