CINCINNATI, Ohio--Federal prosecutors and attorneys for former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora squared off again in a courtroom on Wednesday, but this time, they were making oral arguments in Dimora’s appeal of his conviction.
A federal jury in Akron found Dimora guilty of more than 30 corruption-related charges in March 2012.
Dimora, who is a serving a 28-year prison term, based his appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on his claim that the trial judge made a mistake, when she prevented him from presenting his disclosure forms from the Ohio Ethics Commission to the jury.
Dimora was not in the courtroom in Cincinnati, but his appellate attorney told a panel of three judges that Dimora did not attempt to conceal his relationships with the people he was convicted of accepting the bribes from.
Attorney Christian Grostic said, “Dimora said, ‘I submitted ethics reports to let everyone know about the relationships with these people and I disclosed that I received things of value,' which is contrary to the government’s claim.”
During Dimora’s trial, U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi initially ruled that Dimora’s attorneys could introduce the ethics reports, but after the defense told the jury in opening arguments that they would see the reports during the trial, the judge later changed her mind, and excluded them.
In response to Dimora’s claim that the ethics reports might have led to his acquittal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon told the court of appeals there was a mountain of evidence and testimony about Dimora’s corrupt activities, and that the reports never revealed exactly what he was receiving from contractors and his political cronies.
Bacon said, “If the reports were admissible, they are not the keys to the kingdom. The government’s complaint is not that he concealed the relationships; it’s that he concealed the bribes.”
The three appellate judges asked a number of questions about the 2012 trial, the evidence against Dimora and the ethics reports.
At one point, Judge Jeffrey Sutton said, “The scheme was in the hiding of the phone calls, the clever way of saying, ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,' I don’t see the relevance of the disclosure forms.”
But Judge Richard Griffin seemed to disagree and said, “I think the judge was wrong for throwing the reports out based on hearsay.”
Judge Griffin also told government prosecutors, “I’m kind of surprised that with all of the evidence against these guys, that you fought so hard to keep the reports out. You have created the appellate issue.”
Senior Judge Gilbert Merritt told prosecutors that while Dimora did not have a very good defense against the large amount of evidence against him, “you deprived him of the only defense he had.”
The judges indicated that they are now taking Dimora’s appeal under advisement, and will announce at a later date if they intend to overturn his conviction and grant him a new trial.