CLEVELAND (WJW) - A federal appeals court has agreed to take up the case of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, who is seeking a new trial after his conviction on bribery-related charges.
A three-judge panel on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has scheduled oral arguments for Dimora’s attorneys and prosecutors for March 19.
Dimora is serving a 28-year sentence after a jury convicted him of more than 30 charges in 2012. Prosecutors said Dimora operated a pay-to-play system and enriched himself in exchange for county business.
Dimora’s attorneys say he is holding out hope the sentence may be reduced.
“He's doing well considering the circumstances,” said attorney David Mills, who visited Dimora in prison in August. “I think he's very anxious for oral argument and the case to proceed.”
After Dimora’s conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, narrowed the definition of official acts in bribery cases.
Dimora’s attorneys argue the jury in his trial received improper instructions and Dimora was convicted for conduct that is no longer considered criminal. They also say the jury should have been able to see Dimora’s state ethics reports, in which he listed gifts.
“This jury that had the case and convicted him didn't have all the facts in terms of that ethics report, and they had a mistaken impression of what the law really was,” Mills said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio declined to comment about the appeal.
But, in a court filing, prosecutors argued "every bribery scheme at issue satisfied McDonnell... the evidence overwhelmingly showed that Dimora committed multiple qualifying official acts," and they called the ethics reports "false and inaccurate."
The trial judge previously denied hearing the appeal, stating the McDonnell case wouldn’t have impacted the outcome in Dimora’s trial and the introduction of the ethics reports was previously litigated.
Dimora’s attorneys said they hope the appeals court will grant a new trial and Dimora’s sentence will be reduced.
“I'm hopeful that they'll see that his convictions were wrong, should be overturned and that he should receive a new trial,” attorney Phil Kushner said. “He's serving what is, in effect, a life sentence.”