Dimora Deal: Family keeps the house for now

7:33 PM, Mar 14, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- There was a twist in the forfeiture phase of the trial of Jimmy Dimora where prosecutors, defense attorneys agreed upon a settlement.

Did his family keep the house? Yes...for now.

U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi also set a sentencing date for Jimmy Dimora at 1:30 p.m. July 25.

Co-defendant Michael Gabor will be sentenced at 10 a.m. July 25.

Dimora's attorney Bill Whitaker said after the trial was done and the jury sent home that he intends to appeal Dimora's convictions but would not state on what grounds he would make the appeal.

"Obviously we were disappointed and disagree with the verdict. There will be an appeal. There is evidence we had hoped to get to the jurors that we were unable to do so. We disagree with the verdict, so there will definitely be an appeal and that's about all I have to say about it," he said.

Asked about how Dimora felt, Whitaker said, "He's obviously disappointed and it's going to be very tough for him."

As far as the negotiations for the settlement, Whitaker said, "Mr. Dimora was very concerned about his wife and family and that was an important part of the negotiations today."

Co-defendant Michael Gabor's attorney Leif Christman was also in the courtroom. Afterwards, Christman said he was also appealing his client's convictions.

Christman left the courthouse and went directly to the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road in Youngstown to visit Gabor.

Dimora is also being housed at the same facility.

Later Wednesday night, the U.S. Attorney's office released the following statement:

"While we are pleased with the jury's verdict, we're also aware that this case is a sad one.It's sad for the people of Cuyahoga County, who learned over the course of this trial that some of their elected officials were there for self-service, not public service."

"It's sad for the people of Cuyahoga County, who learned about the pervasiveness of corruption, in shocking detail, during this trial.This result would not have been possible without the incredible dedication and hard work of the FBI and IRS agents and Assistant US Attorneys who worked on this case.Their selfless service serves as a stark contrast of the behavior of the defendants in this case."

Just before 4 p.m., U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon if there was a need for the hearing to commence and she said no.

Bacon said "the parties had reached an agreement, subject to the court's approval."

The jury was let go without any deliberations.

Dimora gave up his 50 percent interest in the house but the goverment agreed not to go after the house or Lori Dimora's 50 percent interest in the house.

But Dimora will forfeit his $122,383 Ohio Public Employees Retirement System benefit that related to his county commissioner position but was allowed to keep his OPERS from his years as mayor of Bedford Heights.

Lioi said the "jury was called back today and the court was prepared to go forward but the parties requested time to negotiate....the court is not involved in the negotiations..."

Jimmy Dimora replied several times, "Yes, your honor" when asked if he understood each part of the settlement.

Dimora must also turn over the sum total of all financial accounts which exceed $10,000 and Lori Dimora keeps her personal savings account which contains $12,000, a gift from a relative.

She may stay in the house until all appeals of Jimmy Dimora's convictions are final. Lori Dimora must maintain the home, pay the taxes and the mortgage.

The U.S. Attorney's office agreed not to pursue restitution against any other property the couple has.

In a prepared statement, FBI Special Agent Stephen Anthony said, after the trial concluded, "This saga, in many respects, has been a sad chapter for the people of Cuyahoga County, who have seen in vivid detail the pervasive corruption of some in our government."

The hearing was supposed to get started at 9 a.m. but the court session did not start until almost 4 p.m., as attorneys for both sides had worked out a deal.

Attorneys for both sides spent the morning and early afternoon behind closed doors and/or in Lioi's chambers.

First thing Wednesday morning, a larger than normal contingent of Jimmy Dimora's relatives came to court.

At least one or two were expected to testify during today's forfeiture hearing.

The family, seen entering the courthouse just after 8:30 a.m., were there for the scheduled forefeiture hearing, where the jury was to decide if Jimmy Dimora would be required to turn over his home to satisfy his debt for the crimes he was convicted of Friday.

Lori Dimora and their two sons had been waiting in the courtroom since just before 9 a.m. for the hearing to begin.

Before she entered the courtroom, Lori Dimora stopped outside the defendant's waiting room where other family members are waiting. "I'm doing okay," Lori Dimora said, in response to being asked in the hallway how she was doing.

Jimmy Dimora, 56, of Independence, also returned to the courthouse through the federal prisoner entrance on the lower level in the same two-piece orange prison garb.

Dimora was convicted on 33 of 34 federal counts Friday, including conspiracy, racketeering and bribery. Also in the courtroom today was attorney Leif Christman, who represented Dimora's co-defendant Michael Gabor.

Gabor, 52, of Parma, was convicted Friday on 7 of the 8 federal counts he was charged with, including bribery, conspiracy and racketeering.

In a discussion of jury instructions on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon said that the government may play wiretapped calls that demonstrate how the home was used as an criminal enterprise.

Bacon and Assistant U.S. Attorney James Morford said that the home of Jimmy Dimora on Forestwood Drive in Independence was the "headquarters" of the criminal enterprise that Dimora and others were involved in.

They make the argument that Dimora's entire home must be forfeited because of his convictions last week. Defense attorneys are trying to prove that untrue and to save the home for Dimora's family to continue living in.

Defense attorneys planned to present members of Dimora's family to testify that the home was not used as prosecutors say.

Prosecutors presented witnesses during the nine-week trial who testified that calls and conversations took place at or from Dimora's home regarding the schemes that Dimora was eventually convicted of last week.

Dimora was also convicted of accepting home improvements inside and outside the home from contractors and businessmen without paying for them and then using his influence as a county commissioner to get them county contracts.

Federal prosecutors also wanted Dimora to reimburse the government for the $150,000 federal grant that was awarded to the City of Berea for a pedestrian bridge at Coe Lake and $250,000 that Cuyahoga County commissiorers budgeted to Alternatives Agency, a halfway house at East 55th Street in Cleveland where Brian Schuman worked.

Prosecutors alleged that Dimora accepted bribes and/or kickbacks for his help in reinstating AA's funding.

Prosectors also wanted Dimora penalized and financially responsible for expensive sponsored dinners, limousine rides and prostitutes others bought for him.

IRS Agent Kelly Fatula testified that Dimora didn't pay taxes on $160,000 on his tax returns for 2004-2007.

Bacon also said FBI Special Agent Michael Massie would testify during the forfeiture phase regarding the summary charts of the evidence.

Dimora's attorneys Andrea and Bill Whitaker had until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to tell prosecutors who their witnesses would be. That information was not made public.

Whitakers' witnesses would testify that the home was not used as the focal point of the "criminal enterprise."

Possible witnesses included Dimora's wife, Lori, their two sons, Anthony and Joseph, and their daughter Lisa.

Bacon told the court that Dimora had used more than one room in the home from which he ran the criminal enterprise.

She said Dimora held pool parties with other corruption defendants several days a week in the good weather, made calls from different rooms about county business and schemes, had a fax machine where he received faxes relating to county business and had other items of value throughout his property that were proceeds of the schemes.

Prosecutors alleged that nearly everything in Dimora's spacious back yard was supplied free of charge to Dimora from businessmen and contractors, including a Tiki bar, a pizza oven, a large back yard canopy attached to the house and a huge retaining wall.

Among other things, testimony during the trial also revealed that Dimora received a kitchen refrigerator, granite countertops for the kitchen and two bathrooms, and that the $3,600 Beanie Wells framed football jersey from an auction was found hanging in his basement recreation room.

Testimony during the trial also revealed that Dimora rarely went to his commissioner's office in the Cuyahoga County Administration building except for the Thursdays when the commissioners held their meetings.


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