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Calif. mayor’s defense says he’s uneducated

LOS ANGELES — 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.

Oscar Hernandez didn’t have a college or high school degree and didn’t even finish elementary school, defense attorney Stanley Friedmand said.

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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.

Hernandez was known around town for having a big heart and being willing to listen to everyone’s problems, the lawyer said.

In prosecutors’ closing arguments on Wednesday, they said the six officials facing charges of misappropriating funds felt they were above the law and collected paychecks for jobs that didn’t exist.

Legally, the officials could have paid themselves $673 a month for what was a part-time job, since they didn’t actually run the city, Deputy District Attorney Ed Miller said. But in addition to their inflated council salaries, the officials appointed one another to commissions that did nothing and often met yearly just to increase their pay, he said.

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