AKRON -- A key witness who disavowed his friendship with Jimmy Dimora has finished two days of testimony against the former Cuyahoga County commissioner.
Berea contractor Ferris Kleem made it clear in afternoon testimony to a federal jury in Akron that his gifts to Dimora were not because Dimora was head of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, but because he was a county commissioner, whose influence was valuable.
Kleem, who gave cash and gifts to Dimora and paid for much of a gambling jaunt to Las Vegas, and who said he greeted Dimora with hugs and kisses, said he and Dimora were just "acquaintances" and that the former commissioner was only a "friend of convenience."
Cross-examining Kleem, Dimora attorney Andrea Whitaker asked, "Isn't it true you are receiving a tremendous benefit from your agreement with the government to work against Mr. Dimora?"
"I suppose, yes," Kleem replied, after some thought. He had pleaded guilty in 2010 to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and will receive a more lenient prison sentence in exchange for his testimony against Dimora.
Whitaker told Kleem he might have received as much as five years in prison but could cut that to as little as 12 months if he fulfulls his plea bargain.
She asked, "What do you expect your sentence to be, Mr. Kleem?
"I'd like it to be nothing," he dead-panned, to the chuckles in the courtroom.
Leif Christman, a lawyer for Dimora's co-defendant Michael Gabor, questioned Kleem about Gabor. Kleem answered that he knew little about Gabor or what he did, other than act as an occasional driver for Dimora.
Kleem testified he did no favors for Gabor nor did he give him any gifts. He said he did not know that Gabor was going along on a now well-publicized vacation to Las Vegas in April 2008.
Kleem had harsh words for Kevin Kelley, the former Parma School Board member who was along on that Vegas trip, and who has already pleaded guilty to his role in the county corruption investgation.
He said, "I don't like the man. I just don't like him."
Asked for his reasons, Kleem thought a moment and responded, "The way he acted and reacted with people I just didn't care for."
Kleem said the only reason he associated with Kelley was his position on the Parma School Board and his "ability to have influence on contracts in that city."
Kleem said he found Kelley "shady" and "dishonest."
"I don't have any proof of it. I just felt it," Kleem added.