Ex-Bell, Calif., Mayor Oscar Hernandez too uneducated to know his actions were illegal, lawyer says
Posted by Associated Press on 02/21/2013 at 7:28 PM
The unschooled and illiterate former mayor of the scandal-ridden suburban city of Bell had no training that would have alerted him that his huge salary was illegal, his lawyer told a jury in closing arguments Thursday.
Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez didn't have a college or high school degree and didn't even finish elementary school, defense attorney Stanley Friedmand said.
Hernandez is among six former Bell city officials on trial for allegedly misappropriating funds. He was earning just under $100,000 a year for the part-time job.
Friedman argued that financial advisers hired by the city could have informed Hernandez that salaries being paid to council members were illegal, but no one did that.
"They didn't say, 'Stop in the name of the law. These salaries are illegal,'" he said.
Hernandez was known around town for having a big heart and being willing to listen to everyone's problems, and like many other politicians of simple backgrounds, he wasn't required to be scholarly to be mayor, the lawyer said.
"We elect people who have a good heart. Someone who can listen to your problems and look you in the eye," Friedman said. "There are a lot of elected officials who may not be the most scholarly. We had a vice president of the United States who didn't know how to spell potato."
Friedman said former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's main qualification was "he portrayed a killer robot in the movies. And (former Minnesota Gov.) Jesse Ventura was a professional wrestler."