Richard Lillie's request to be removed as Jimmy Dimora's lawyer was approved this morning during a pre-trial hearing in U.S. District Court. He had made the request earlier in the fall.
Lillie told Judge Kathleen O'Malley that Dimora has only recently paid him $1,000 and owes him tens of thousands. Dimora told WKYC today he expects his defense to eventually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The judge granted the request and ruled that Dimora doesn't qualify for a taxpayer-funded defense. She repeatedly warned him to do more to pay an attorney from his assets.
"I have examined your finances," the judge told Dimora in court. "It's not a question of affording a lawyer, but whether you choose to pay for one."
O'Malley gave Dimora until Jan. 12 to either pay Lillie, find another lawyer, or represent himself in court.
"I can't be reponsible for him if he can't represent himself," she said of Dimora.
"I specifically told you to go to more than one bank to find a loan," Judge O'Malley told Dimora, who has refused to resign and is still on the public payroll.
"Mr. Lillie has the right not to work for free."
The court said Dimora has $40,000 to $50,000 in liquid assets, and asked him why he has not cashed in an insurance policy or assets from a stock club.
"I still believe Park View Federal will give me my loan," Dimora replied. "I can do this by the end of the year."
Dimora claims a loan officer has told him that his request for a loan for 70 percent of the value of his $435,000 home should be approved. He said the hang-up is a discrepency in the square footage of his house.
"If they don't give me the loan, I'm in a predicament," Dimora told both the court and WKYC after the hearing.
O'Malley lectured Dimora in the courtroom.
"How long do you think it's right to ask Mr. Lillie to be your indentured servant?" she said. "How can you have optimism? Mr. Dimora, you have few options. I'm not sure other counsel would take your case because of the way you have treated Mr. Lillie."
Dimora said the issue might be resolved by Dec. 31 with his pending application for a loan against his mortgage-free home.
Dimora, also the former Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chairman, pleaded not guilty to 26 charges in September.