Convicted Bell Felons Spar Before Sentencing

Robert Rizzo pleaded guilty while his assistant Angela Spaccia rolled the dice at trial — and lost.  Prosecutors have now asked the court to sentence Spaccia to a prison term of 152 months, longer than the 10-12 year sentence faced by her boss.  Prosecutors called  Spaccia an “unrepetentant” thief who lied repeatedly on the witness stand during her one-month trial.

It’s hard to accept that Spaccia is really more culpable than Rizzo in this marquee corruption case.  But a defendant who goes to trial against overwhelming evidence  often pays the price at sentencing.  Judges have enormous discretion when imposing a sentence, and when one believes a defendant has committed perjury, a longer sentence often results.

Spaccia’s attorney, Harland Braun, has asked a skeptical court to allow him to interview  Rizzo for eight hours.  Braun claims that Rizzo is obligated to do so because he signed a plea agreement in which he agreed to cooperate with authorities.  Rizzo’s lawyer, James Spertus, has rejected this request, pointing out that Rizzo was willing to testify voluntarily during the trial if either side called him to the stand–and Spaccia never did.

Why does Braun want to talk to Rizzo at this late stage?  Most likely, Braun is trying to manufacture an issue he can use to challenge the stiff sentence that Judge Kennedy will probably impose on his client.  If the judge, as is likely, turns down his request, then Braun can  argue to the court of appeals that his client was sentenced unfairly.

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