Less than three years ago, they were handcuffed and taken away in a case alleged to be so extensive that the district attorney called it "corruption on steroids."
But on Monday, two of the six former Bell council members accused of misappropriating money from the small, mostly immigrant town took to the witness stand and defended themselves as honorable public servants who earned their near-$100,000 salaries by working long hours behind the scenes.
During her three days on the stand, Teresa Jacobo said she responded to constituents who called her cell and home phone at all hours. She put in time at the city's food bank, organized breast cancer awareness marches, sometimes paid for hotel rooms for the homeless and was a staunch advocate for education.
"I was working very hard to improve the lives of the citizens of Bell," she said. "I was bringing in programs and working with them to build leadership and good families, strong families."