AKRON, Ohio — The day former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora was to be sentenced for running a criminal enterprise while in office turned into a day of legal wrangling.
Federal Judge Sara Lioi addressed 43 objections filed by Dimora’s attorneys to the value of bribes he received.
Dimora entered Federal Court in Akron on Monday morning in a wheelchair, aided by Summit County Sheriff’s Deputies.
Shortly before 9:30 a.m. Dimora hobbled into the courtroom using a walker and took a seat alongside his attorneys, Bill and Andrea Whitaker. Behind Dimora sat his family in the front row of a packed courtroom.
Dimora remained stoic throughout much of the early proceedings as the Whitakers presented claims that the amount of bribes paid to Dimora were not representative of what he actually received.
The arguments related to bribes received in the form of trips, dinners, entertainment, encounters with prostitutes and gifts.
In their filing of 43 objections to the addendum, the Whitakers argued that Dimora’s influence on county contracts and jobs could not be counted in the overall restitution payments to the U.S. Government.
“Prosecutors have cast an overarching net of loss,” said Andrea Whitaker.
The ‘net of loss’ Whitaker referred to dealt mostly with the county contracts Dimora helped businessmen obtain.
Contracts obtained by business owners J. Kevin Kelley, Rob Rybak and Ferris Kleem all were questioned.
All three men have pleaded guilty to bribing the former commissioner in an effort to gain business an influence with the county.
Andrea Whitaker argued that in the case of Rybak, Dimora should not be held accountable for the value of contracts handed out.
Prosecutors argued Dimora should pay on the benefits he received.
“These jobs were deemed, gem jobs,” said Assistant U.S. Prosecutor Antoinette Bacon. “What’s the benefit to be conferred to the plumbers? A steady job earning $45,000 a year.”
Prosecutor Bacon later told the court that without Dimora’s aid and influence, Alternate Agency, a company headed by Kelley, would have folded.
The organization was on the verge of bankruptcy, according to Bacon, and a contract awarded to Alternate Agency by Cuyahoga County was a life-line.
Bacon argues that the value of the bribe for which Dimora was convicted, $297,000, was actually significantly greater.
Lioi sided with prosecutors on several objections in the morning but ruled in favor of Dimora on two objections in the early afternoon.
Lioi ruled that $2,000 will be reduced from an estimated $35,977.98 that Dimora received in bribes from Kleem, the owner of Blaze Construction and Phoenix Cement. The reduction comes from Dimora’s knowledge of how a Rolex watch he received as a gift was purchased.
Lioi agreed that Dimora did not know that Kleem had paid $2,000 in cash to a jeweler to make up the difference in the cost of the watch that Dimora was unwilling to pay.
Lioi also ruled in favor of Dimora with an objection on how much he needed to repay the county related to criminal activity with Gina Coppers.
Coppers received a government job, with benefits, courtesy of a sexual relationship she carried on with Dimora.
Lioi only allowed $121 to be shown as the amount that Dimora was bribed.
$121 is the amount Coppers paid for a motel room in Independence for the purpose of having a sexual rendezvous with Dimora.
Bacon argued for a majority of the afternoon that Dimora’s financial gain from fraud and bribery must be aggregated.
“What was his gain from the fraud. What was the gain from the conspirators.” said Bacon.
Dimora’s attorneys and prosecutors combed through virtually every cent he received fraudulently and through bribes from 2004 to 2007. The court has spent all day ruling on differences in bribe amounts received, some as little as $6.
Late in the day, Dimora’s daughter, Lisa, took the stand to tell the court how Dimora was always there for his children at sporting events and throughout school.
She described how her father helped at after-prom parties and accompanied her to father daughter dances.
“Our house is always the house everyone enjoyed being at,” said Lisa Dimora. “Everyone always had a good time.”
Court will resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.