Cuyahoga County: Corruption probes cause 'collateral damage'

5:54 PM, Sep 20, 2010   |    comments
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Both have unwanted roles in the complex legal drama and web that has snared Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and others.

Ciaccia was "Cleveland Official 1" in the Nate Gray bribery case.

Gray was former Mayor Michael White's onetime best friend.

He is now serving his prison sentence following his conviction.

Ciaccia was portrayed as strong-arming donations for then-Mayor Jane Campbell's pet charity.

And there was testimony that some money being used to bribe Gray was going to Ciaccia for his daughter's college tuition.

Ciaccia was never charged and denies wrongdoing.

"It was a scary time for me and my family. You can say you are innocent until you are blue in the face, but a lot of negative people want to think differently," Ciaccia said.

Was he worried about being charged? He did get a lawyer.

"The way they were going at it, you just didn't know," Ciaccia said.

Ciaccia's advice to FitzGerald and Jones -- "You have to maintain true to your confidence in yourself and you have to continue on," he said.

FitzGerald says he merely took a phone call from Jimmy Dimora.

Dimora was trying to help a friend and indicted contractor William Neiheiser get a chance to make a pitch to take over Lakewood's Winterhurst Ice Rink.

Neiheiser ultimately won the contract. FitzGerald says the review process was normal and it's turned out to be a great deal for the city because Neiheiser paid to renovate an old facility and has yet to get any money from the city.

Dimora and Neiheiser gave FitzGerald campaign contributions the month after the phone call from Dimora.

FitzGerald has given those and other now-tainted contributions to a veterans' group.

Jones claims there was no "this-for-that" deal connecting his votes to hire two plumbers and giving a union official's county-worker wife a raise with a campaign fundraiser.

Commissioners approved both measures based on staff recommendations, he said.

He claims Dimora never pressured him to vote on either measure.

Cleveland State Provost Geoffrey Mearns is a former federal prosecutor.

He addressed the problem of "collateral damage" -- people being hurt by non-criminal connections to a corruption probe.

"It is an unintended but necessary consequence of having business and political relations with some of these people...What the prosecutors have to do is do what they have to do to tell the story, but no more. They need to be mindful of the possible consequences, but can't let that stop them from doing their job," he said.

Prosecutors cannot name people who are not charged in indictment paperwork. 

But the identities of PO 14 -- FitzGerald -- and PO 9 -- Jones -- are obvious.

Mearns was also defense counsel for a businessman who was "an unindicted co-conspirator" in the Nate Gray probe.

His client was never charged. Mearns claim the man's business and repuation were ruined by being connected to the probe.


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