Dimora Trial: Prosecutors Laying Groundwork for Kelley Testimony

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Government prosecutors in the federal corruption trial of Jimmy Dimora appear to be building up to the testimony of J. Kevin Kelley, who pleaded guilty in August 2009 to related bribery charges and is expected to be another key witness against the former Cuyahoga County commissioner.

Using a multitude of documents and often profanity-laden wiretapped conversations, the government is trying to show that Dimora and former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo accepted money from Kelley, a former Cuyahoga County Engineer’s Office employee, to help pay for their April 2008 trip to Las Vegas in exchange for help to restore funding for a halfway house called Alternatives Agency.

Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Michael Massie, testifying for the second time in Dimora’s trial, told jurors on Friday that a decision had been made through the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to end the $600,000 contract with Alternatives Agency because of budget cuts.

Jurors heard a wiretapped phone call between Kelley, who was paid $4,900 per month as a consultant for Alternatives Agency, and Brian Schuman, the agency’s director, in which Kelley was asked to use his political contacts to help restore the agency’s funding.

According to the original indictment of Kelley, the government accused him of previously giving Dimora and Russo gifts, including expensive meals, a trip to New Orleans and at least $1,000 in personal services, with the expectation that they would perform future favors.

During a phone call played for jurors, Kelley is heard telling Schuman, “You are lucky to have us as friends. … We are going to take care of you.”

Massie testified that, with the influence of Dimora, the county reinstated its contract with Alternatives Agency.

Kelley was later heard telling Schuman, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” concluding the wiretapped conversation by adding, “Loyalty makes up for brains any day.”

Referencing Schuman’s co-director Chuck Farone, Kelley tells Schuman, “He may know the programs, but you know the people.”

Prosecutors also showed detailed bank statements and records from the agency indicating that, for four months beginning in January 2008, Alternatives Agency increased Kelley’s consulting fee an additional $2,000 per month. They claim that Kelley was expected to forward the extra funds to Dimora and Russo to help pay for the Vegas trip.

On the same day that the group, which included Kelley, left for Vegas, Kelley and Schuman talked on the phone. In that wiretapped call, jurors heard Kelley tell Schuman, “We’re heading out now. … The guys wanted me to call and thank you.”

Massie continues his testimony after a lunch break.

Schuman pleaded guilty to bribery charges in July, as did Kelley, who admitted delivering the bribes.

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