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Investigator: Dimora uses sexist, racist slurs on wiretaps

6:48 AM, Jan 5, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- At 168 pages, the proposed jury instructions in the case of former Cuyahoa County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora tell the story of how complex the trial will be.

But before the jurors get to read those instructions, which provide a set of legal rules they should follow in deciding the case, the jury will have to hear three months of complex testimony and evidence.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has thousands of secretly-recorded conversations between Dimora, former County Auditor Frank Russo and other key figures.

On those tapes, jurors will find the language used by Dimora is often vulgar, crude, and sometimes racist.

They will also get to see Dimora in action. The FBI has video surveillance of Dimora talking turkey with co-conspirators in Las Vegas on a April 2008 trip that prosecutors say was paid for by corrupt contractors. The FBI also has photographs of Dimora.

But there's much more. Here's the three areas we think prosecutors will focus on:

No. 1: The witnesses

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Rowland's team has charged 59 people in the ongoing corruption investigation. Most have either pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial.

None shine brighter than Russo, the government's star witness. Prosecutors say Dimora and Russo worked hand in hand to cheat the system.

J. Kevin Kelley is another bright light. The former Parma School Board member admits being the middleman in a multitude of schemes, taking bribes from contractors and giving them to Dimora.

Then there's Steve Pumper. The former chief executive at DAS Construction funneled Dimora free Cavaliers and Indians tickets, $33,000 in cash and $60,000 in free work at Dimora's home in exchange for contracts and inside deals.

No. 2: The wiretaps

If the witnesses aren't enough, jurors can listen to the big man himself. The FBI started hitting the record button on Dimora's phone about 4 years ago, accumulating potentially incriminating audio tapes.

Like when Dimora told Pumper to call the bailiff of Common Pleas Judge Bridget McCafferty, who agreed to help fix a case for him.

"He's gonna talk to you about this subcontractor issue and get the particulars to talk to their staff attorney to try to get the thing worked out for you," Dimora told Pumper.

"Okay, good," Pumper said.

No. 3: The sex

Expect to see the Las Vegas prostitute hired by Ferris Kleem. A contractor, Kleem wanted Dimora's influence on a Snow Road resurfacing project and two contracts for the Juvenile Justice Center.

Three hours after delivering the hooker to Dimora's room, Kleem got a thank you call.

"Was that the best or what?" Kleem asked.

"Yeah, she's good. Little chatty, but good," Dimora said.

Prosecutors could also call the prostitutes hired by Kevin Payne, the former chief of staff at the county engineer's office. The feds say Payne plunked down cold cash so Dimora could have a hot time at a Flats condo in return for Dimora's vote on county business.  

Through the entire trial, prosecutors will try to make the point that Dimora ran his office like a criminal enterprise. That's because they've charged him with racketeering, a charge normally used to take down mafia kingpins.

Statistically, Dimora has an uphill battle to beat the rap. Figures show that nine out of every 10 defendants in federal trials are found guilty. And, so far, only one little-known contractor has been found not guilty in this case. 

Expanded Dimora trial coverage

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