CINCINNATI -- After reading what federal prosecutors alleged in a recent June 3 filing in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals here that the 2012 conviction of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora was, in fact, just, Dimora's attorney Christian Grostic fired back in a 32-page reply Wednesday afternoon.
In short, Grostic said the district court erred in excluding Dimora's ethic reports; that the court's jury instructions were inadequate and misleading; that there was insufficient evidence to convict him on four of the counts; and that the district court's errors were not harmless.
Friday is Dimora's 58th birthday, the second birthday he will spend behind bars. He was found guilty on March 9, 2012, and sentenced July 31, 2012, to nearly 28 years in federal prison.
Dimora spent March 9, 2012, until Feb. 7, 2013, at the federal facility in Youngstown before being transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution Gilmer in Glenville, West Virgina. U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi had him taken into custody immediately after the jury found him guilty.
The reply begins "It is undisputed that James Dimora received expensive meals, home improvement, trips and other things of value from many people. It is undisputed that some of those people sought or did business with the county. It is undisputed that they gave things to Dimora because he was an important public official, whom they hoped would help them. But without proof of more, that is not federal bribery."
It continues "There can be a fine line between what is federal bribery and what is not. And what is not may be distasteful and inappropriate. That was certainly the case here, where some of the things Dimora received involved sex and gambling...in 44,000 secretly recorded phone conversations spanning 1,589 hours, Dimora never once said that he would do anything in exchange for money or anything else of value...while the government claims that nine witnesses 'testified that they bribed Dimora,'...that is not true. They, and others, testified that they gave things to Dimora, but they did not establish bribery."
Grostic filed the original appeal on Aug. 13, 2012.
The original appeal alleges:
- that the district court committed reversible error by excluding evidence central to Dimora's defense -- his ethics reports -- and thereby allowing the government to mislead the jury on a key issue in the case
- the district court erred by changing its pretrial ruling and excluding Dimora's ethics reports
- Dimora's ethics reports were not hearsay because they were not offered to prove that he actually received things of value the district court abused its discretion by changing its pretrial ruling and excluding evidence that would refute misleading testimony the court permitted the government to introduce repeatedly
- the district court committed an error when it excluded evidence central to Dimora's defense and allowed the government to mislead the jury on a key issue in the case
- the district court compounded its error by excluding the ethics reports of Dimora's alleged co-conspirator Frank Russo who, unlike Dimora, admitted taking bribes and disclosed nothing
- the district court committed reversible error by excluding Dimora's evidence that he provided similar assistance to many others without reciving anything of value
- the district court erred by applying a different and stricter standard to exclude Dimora's reverse 404(b) evidence than what it applied in admitting the government's 404(b) evidence
- the government repeatedly relied on the absence of Dimora's reverse 404(b) evidence in arguing for his conviction
- the district court's inadequate instructions permitted the jury, at the government's urging, to convict on lawful conduct
- the district court rejected instructions that accurately explained the important difference between bribery and lobbying
- the district court rejected instructions that explained the limits on what acts are official acts
- there was insufficient evidence to convict Dimora on four counts under correct law defining bribery and official acts as it relates to Nicholas Zavarella (Counts 12-13), John Valentin (Count 11) and Gina Meuti Coppers (Count 9)