I-Team: Jimmy Dimora appeals to U.S. Supreme Court

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CLEVELAND  -- The FOX 8 I-Team has confirmed that attorneys for former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora have sent an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the high court to hear the case.

The appeal petition asks the court to decide whether the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals used the proper standard in finding that the trial judge's decision to exclude evidence - evidence that Dimora said was key to his defense - was, in fact, "harmless error."

The petition indicates that all three appeals judges believed the trial judge, Sara Lioi, made a mistake when she did not allow Dimora to show the jury his ethics report filings.

Those filings, Dimora claimed, showed that what the government called bribes were actually gifts that he had disclosed.

Dimora's trial attorneys had told jurors they would see the ethics report, but the judge later ruled they were hearsay and would not allow them into the trial.

Dimora, 58, was convicted of more than 30 corruption-related charges, and was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

Two of the appeals judges found the exclusion of the ethics report to be what's known as "harmless error" - and, according to the Dimora petition, applied a "more probable than not" standard to reach that conclusion - in other words, that, even if the jury saw the reports, it was "more probable than not" that Dimora still would have been convicted.

But, the petition says, the dissenting judge more closely followed a standard used by more appeals courts, and voted to overturn Dimora's conviction.

Resolving conflicts between appeals court in different parts of the country, setting one legal standard for the nation on narrow questions of law, is one of the primary reasons that the U.S. Supreme Court decides to take a case.

"It wasn't just a disagreement between the majority and the dissent in this case," says Christian Grostic, Dimora's appeal attorney, "but it's actually a disagreement across the whole country, between different courts of appeal, and sometimes within a court of appeal."

The case hasn't officially been filed yet, but the I-Team obtained a copy of Dimora's petition that his attorneys confirmed is accurate.

Grostic says he has spoken to Dimora about the petition to the high court.

"He's hopeful that this will win him another trial," Grostic says, "because he feel he didn't get a fair trial the first time, and he wants another chance."

On average, the U.S. Supreme Court only takes about one in a hundred cases that ask for its review.

But Grostic says the high court showed an interest in hearing this very issue a couple years ago, but later decided that case wasn't the right one for resolving the "harmless error" question.

Grostic says he hopes the justices will decide the Dimora case is the right one for issuing that ruling.

The U.S. Attorney's Office, which prosecuted Dimora, declined to comment on his appeal.

CLICK for continuing coverage on Jimmy Dimora and keep it to FOX 8 News and FOX8.com for the latest.

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