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Dimora trial: Witness questioned with jury absent

11:42 AM, Feb 21, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- 'Potential' corruption trial witness Joseph Randazzo has refused to answer some questions and took the Fifth Amendment during his testimony Tuesday morning.

U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi had Randazzo, president of the Financial Network of America, questioned by defense attorney Andrea Whitaker and prosecutors without the jury present.

After questioning, he was told to remain available to be a witness, possibly on Wednesday. It was not explained why the jury was excluded and Lioi said she would make her ruling later in the day.

Joseph Randazzo was accompanied by his attorney Robert Glickman.

After the lunch break, Lioi made her ruling.

She said the issue was that attorney Andrea Whitaker's questions were regarding a proposal made to the county regarding FNA's product and the prosecution wanted to ask about more details, about introductions to other public entities/officials and why an RFP (request for propasal) by the county was issued in the first place.

Lioi ruled that the witness was shutting down any opportunity for the government to have any meaningful cross examination of him by taking the Fifth.

The witness answered Whitaker's questions but few of the prosecution's, like nothing leading up to why the RFP was issued, introductions or payments made to Dimora or Russo.

Lioi said, "....he's agreeing to answer questions but when probed about the details, he refuses to answer......this prohibits a fair presentation of the evidence...so the court finds that, unless this witness allows some probing, the court will exclude the witness's testimony...."

Joseph Randazzo asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself when asked if FNA sought to do work with Cuyahoga County.

At a meeting with county officials, Randazzo said he presented FNA's plan and does not recall if other companies were there at the same meeting.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Kelley also questioned Randazzo.

He asserted his Fifth Amendment right again when asked if he was introduced to Northeast Ohio Sewer District officials and again when asked if FNA sought help from former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo to introduce FNA's planning for the county.

He was asked if he talked to Russo and again took the Fifth when asked if Dimora or Russo mentioned Beachwood officials as possible people to solicit for FNA business.

The court did not explain why the jury was not in the room for the questioning.

Back in July 2011, the county stopped doing business with FNA.

FNA, based in Twinsburg, was founded by Randazzo's father, Charles Randazzo.

Charles Randazzo, 63, of Solon, admitted earlier in the six-week trial that he bribed Dimora and Russo.

FNA began providing deferred compensation plans for county employees in 2004.

Charles Randazzo pleaded guilty in April 2011 to making bribes in exchange for county business.

In his plea agreement, Randazzo also admitted giving Dimora food and wine and provided club seats to a 2008 Cavs game for Dimora's relatives.

In 2004, Dimora voted to include FNA on a list of businesses that provide financial services to county employees, according to court documents.

WKYC-TV

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