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Dimora seeks to limit language used in his trial

2:59 PM, Nov 21, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora wants certain words -- like political godfather, corruption and kickback -- not used during his trial.

Attorneys for Dimora asked the court Nov. 14 to prevent federal prosecutors from using those terms during his upcoming trial scheduled to start Jan. 4.

His attorneys also asked that there be no "raising (of) the issue of County reform," claiming that it would unfairly prejudice him.

Dimora's motion reads, in part, "..."During the trial of former Cuyahoga County Judge Bridget McCafferty a reference was made to Messrs. Dimora and (Frank) Russo as her 'political godfathers.'"

On Monday, federal prosecutors filed their response. U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi is expected to rule on the motion in the coming weeks.

"This Court has presided over three of the four trials in the County corruption investigation. By the time of the Dimora trial, it will have presided over a fourth. To the best knowledge...this Court has not needed to admonish the United States about using language that would unduly have a tendency "to suggest decision on an improper basis" or which would "lure the factfinder into declaring guilty on a ground different from proof specific to the offense charged."

Regarding the term "political godfather," prosecutors said there was no reference made during the McCafferty trial but only during her sentencing.

Prosecutors wrote "There is nothing about the term "political godfather" that is inherently prejudicial or inflammatory. Indeed, the word is often used in a positive way."

They cited the example of President Obama describing the President of the Illinois Senate Emil Jones in an article in The New Republic in 2007 as his "political godfather."

The article goes on to describe Jones as President Obama's mentor, "thus equating the term "political godfather" to the term "mentor."

"Thus, when modified by the word "political," the term "godfather" loses much of whatever negative connotations the word godfather would have, say, in a Mafia prosecution. Indeed, the word "godfather" standing alone can have an extremely positive connotation when used to describe a person entrusted to take the place of a child's parents. In the political world, a political godfather often nurtures young politicians in the same type of positive way."

Regarding referencing county reform, prosecutors wrote "The United States does not intend to conduct a mini-trial on whether this investigation led to County reform. Nor does it intend to focus on events not within the scope of the conduct charged in the indictment."


"Dimora seeks to preclude the use of the term "kickbacks." He contends that the indictment improperly uses the word "kickback" because that word does not appear in any of the charged statutes."

"Specifically, the Court in United States v. Shilling narrowed the reach of the statute, limiting it to fraudulent schemes involving bribes or kickbacks."

"The Court in Shilling defined kickback as "any money, fee, commission, credit, gift, gratuity, thing of value, or compensation of any kind which is provided, directly or indirectly, to [enumerated persons] for the purpose of improperly obtaining or rewarding favorable treatment in connection with [enumerated circumstances]."

"This is exactly the conduct the United States will prove at the Dimora trial. It is difficult to imagine why the term "kickback" should not be used in this trial when (1) the Supreme Court has defined it; (2) the Supreme Court has stated that the United States is required to prove kickbacks or bribery in an honest services trial and (3) the indictment alleged kickbacks."

"Indeed, it would be like not using the term "crack" in a case in which the United States has alleged that a defendant distributed cocaine that had been "cooked" to convert it to "crack."

Corruption? Federal prosecutions wrote "In essence, Dimora contends that the United States should not use the word "corruption" in this corruption trial."

"Given that the phrases "corruption investigation" and "County corruption investigation" constitute an accurate shorthand description of the investigation Dimora attempted to obstruct, as described in the indictment, the United States should be permitted to use this term."

"In addition, it should be noted that Dimora did not object to the Court using the phrase "Cuyahoga County public corruption investigation" in instructing potential jurors."


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