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Russo on Dimora: "For food, he'll do anything"

7:02 PM, Feb 14, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- The ultimate insider in a decade of schemes and Cuyahoga County wheeling and dealing, former Cuyahoga County Auditor and best friend of Jimmy Dimora Frank Russo began his testimony Tuesday morning.

Russo testified about multiple bribes/schemes involving Jimmy Dimora and himself, and that Dimora would do anything if you fed him.

That's why so many of the meetings revolved around lunches and dinners for Dimora in high-end restaurants.

"For food, he'll do anything," Russo said, saying that Dimora would eat and drink Crown Royal on others' credit cards and tabs, then give them help getting county contracts or jobs.

Russo, the star witness in Dimora's and co-defendant Michael Gabor's county corruption trial, drew a high-profile audience as well.

Among the onlookers in the courtroom and the media room Tuesday were U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio Peter J. Elliott, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry DeBaggis, several FBI agents and other U.S. attorneys.

And for the first time, Russo admitted publicly that he was gay, referring to his longtime housemate Michael Calabrese as his "partner" not once but twice during his testimony.

Federal Prosecutor Antoinette Bacon walked Russo through scheme after scheme that had already come up in others' previous testimony since the beginning of the trial.

Russo testified that it was him that talked J. Kevin Kelley out of running for mayor of Parma because, as he said, mayoral candidate Dean DePiero, a Parma councilman, was a "personal friend" of Russo and Russo knew DePiero's family.

"I talked Kevin Kelley out of running for mayor of the city of Parma. I gave Kevin a raise and, as well as giving Kevin a raise, I gave Kevin a lower work week. Back then, we were on a 35-hour work week. We cut Kevin down to 30 hours per week because you had to get 30 hours to get benefits. So, not only did I give him a raise but I cut his work hours," Russo said.

That's when Kelley joined the inner circle of Russo and Dimora, Russo said.

"He became very, very comfortable with me. He became Jimmy's driver. He was now in the inner circle. Kevin was a very aggressive person. He would organize things. He became the event planner," Russo said.

Russo testified that Dimora was given $2,000 in cash to help Samir Mohammad, already a Cuyahoga County employee, get a new position in the county.

Mohammad wanted the county administrator's job, but Russo ended up making him chief deputy auditor with a salary of more than $135,000 a year.

"He doesn't have a great personality but he makes up for it upstairs," Russo said, saying he said that to Dimora and others.

Then Russo detailed a casino gambling trip. He described to jurors the dancer he saw leaving the casino with Dimora.

"A woman called Egypt. She appeared to be very tall, slender, Afro-American. Her job, I think, was prostitution. I saw him once with Egypt during the trip. I saw the two of them walking out together," Russo said.

On the stand three weeks ago, Latonya Calhoun identified herself as "Egypt" but testified that she only did exotic dancing. Russo told jurors Egypt also attended a pool party at Russo's house.

"There were a couple times we'd have prostitutes over," Russo said. "I'd tell the kids 'I have some friends coming over and Dad needs a private night tonight'."

Bacon then asked Russo about a prostitute previously identified by the nickname "Glitter" whose real name was Alyson Peterson.

"Glitter was one of the prostitutes Kevin Payne would hire off and on to come and entertain everybody. Glitter was on a gambling trip. Glitter was always at the Stonebridge condos. And I believe Glitter was at my house one time for a back yard party," Russo said.

Russo testified about poker parties at the Stonebridge condo where prostitutes also attended.


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