AKRON, Ohio --
Defense attorney Bill Whitaker ended his closing arguments in a somewhat embarrassing fashion by telling the jury to find his client, Jimmy Dimora, guilt on all counts.
"I think that the evidence here, when you look at the lies that have been put forth, I think you will be returning a verdict of guilty on each and every one of these counts," said Whitaker.
He realized his mistake after sitting at the defense table and suddenly turned, facing the jury and exclaimed while throwing up his hands, "I mean not guilty!"
Prior to the blunder, Whitaker told the jury that his client has been vilified by everyone, including the press, but the onus of truth lies with the jury.
He initially focused on Dimora's infamous trip to Las Vegas in April of 2008.
"[Jurors learned of] Behavior that was offensive, behavior that was wrong, but behavior that was not illegal," said Whitaker.
Jurors were shown a photo of Jimmy Dimora and co-defendant Michael Gabor shirtless in the pool at The Bare Lounge at The Mirage Las Vegas.
"Not a pretty picture" said Whitaker. "Offensive behavior, the two of them sitting there like they are teenage boys."
Whitaker reminded jurors they saw, "Pictures and testimony, about going out all the time. Prostitutes, gambling, offensive behavior, bad behavior," but he said that was, "not a crime, not a violation of the Hobbs Act."
Whitaker pointed the finger instead at former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo.
"Russo, as soon as he got in office, he negotiates a $21 million contract… commercial appraisal contract. And what does he get out of it? $1,374,000, that’s what he gets out of it,” said Whataker. “It was like a lottery win for him. A lifetime of stream of payments. Mr. Dimora didn’t get a nickel of it. Nothing whatsoever to do with it.
He listed a number of cash bribes and kickbacks that Russo admits getting for himself, telling jurors, "This is Frank Russo with his criminal conspiracy, his enterprise, it was his."
"Jimmy Dimora did not take cash, and we are going to go over every allegation that he did, and they are all false," said Whitaker who added, "Frank Russo is testifying for a reason. He is trying to avoid a 22-year prison sentence, and he is doing everything he can to avoid it. He wants to say what he needs to say to avoid that sentence."
"This is a criminal enterprise, and there is no question that he accepted the cash….from this criminal enterprise, and Mr. Dimora had absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing."
Government prosecutors started their closing arguments earlier in the day carefully outlining details of each of the 37 total charges Dimora and co-defendant Michael Gabor are charged with.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon started Wednesday morning by telling the jury, "The citizens of Cuyahoga County expected trusted that their elected officials would use their power... would serve with a spirit of honesty, integrity, trust. In essence would be public servants."
She told the jury that Dimora, "Broke that trust. Found a way to cash in." Adding, "For them public service was self-service.”
Bacon later told the jury, "It wasn't as easy as slapping a cash register on their desk," she continued. "They operated in secret, had to deal with people who they trusted, people who were loyal, who could help them cover their tracks.”
"For years they kept the dark door to this world closed and locked. A world where they tried to fix court cases… tried to give some an unfair advantage over others," Bacon said.
The prosecution is reminding jurors about testimony and evidence that Dimora accepted gifts and in exchange would take care of the people giving those gifts.
Jurors were told that the law accepts that people can give public officials gifts because they are friends, but at the same time expect something in return.
Evidence that the gifts Dimora accepted were bribes, she told the jury, are reflected in the efforts to cover up the gifts by sending checks for work done at his house or trying to get invoices for the work only after they knew about an FBI investigation into corruption.
"The check shows the cover-up," said Bacon with respect to Dimora's efforts to pay for granite work at his home after he learned about the corruption investigation.
"There is no need to cover-up a friendship. There is no need to cover-up a coincidence, but there is a need to cover up a bribe."
Bacon reminded jurors about testimony from J. Kevin Kelley that members of their inner circle were warning each other about the FBI investigation after agents first approached DAS executive Steve Pumper.
"If it's just friends, if it's just a coincidence why do you need to warn about the FBI?”, asked Bacon. "Because the FBI doesn't investigate friendship, it investigates corruption."
At one point Bacon referred to Dimora as, "King of the county."
"The more you gave him the more open he was to what you wanted," she said.
Bacon concluded her closing arguments saying, "Its been a long journey, a long journey through a dark world filled with bribery, fraud, obstruction and conspiracy. Now that you have the evidence through this journey and have the directions which is the law it's time to go to the final step which is your verdict, your destination."
And that's the evidence and the law when viewed together proves beyond a reasonable doubt taht Michael Gabor and Commissioner Dimora are guilty of every single one of these charges, and we'd ask you to find them guilty."