AKRON -- Defense strategies in the Jimmy Dimora and Michael Gabor trial are placing convicted corruption defendant Frank Russo as the head of the county corruption.
Attorney Andrea Whitaker, who represents Dimora, and attorney Leif Christman, who represents Gabor, both said their clients are not the dealmakers nor part of the corruption scandal. In their opening statements, both pointed to Russo, 62, of Bratenahl, as the one doing the wheeling and dealing.
Thursday afternoon, following Whitaker's opening statement, Christman made his opening statement on Gabor's behalf. He immediately offered the jury a picture of Russo that most did not see.
He said the laughing, fun-loving, man-you-want-to-be-with at parties and political fundraisers isn't the full picture.
"There was a dark side of Frank Russo," Christman said. He said Russo was getting regular bribes and kickbacks on county contracts and from businessmen who wanted to curry favor with Russo.
Christman said it was Russo who was corrupt and knew how to work the system.
Christman said that when Russo was indicted in the federal probe, he got himself a high-profile attorney and pleaded guilty within a week. He said Russo knows how to work the system.
Russo was charged in September 2010, with 21 counts, resigned his office as county auditor the same day, pleaded guilty a week later and was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison in December 2010.
In late December 2010, he entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors to testify against other defendants in hope of getting the judge to consider reducing his sentence.
He has already testified against two former Cuyahoga County judges in 2011 and both were convicted.