Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dimora, nonchalant in court, pleads not guilty, won’t resign

Jimmy Dimora walked into the courtroom wearing a big cobalt-blue T-shirt, black pants and loafers, and almost the hint of a smile. Glancing just a moment at the crowd in the room, he looked unfazed, as if he’d been ready for this moment for 26 months.

Then he turned to his lawyer, Richard Lillie, awaiting him at the defense table with crutches beside him.

“Oh! I thought you were in the hospital!” Dimora said. “How are you feeling?” Even in his perp walk moment, Dimora was paying attention to relationships, thinking about someone else.

His hair was neatly combed back. He picked up a sport coat set out for him on the table and put it on. Suddenly he looked official again, still county commissioner, despite the crimes he’s now accused of: 24 bribery accusations, two counts of obstruction of justice.

Dimora and Lillie spent a long time whispering to each other. Listening to his lawyer, he nodded and brushed a hand across the table. Four federal marshals took seats at a discreet distance behind him and to his left. Dimora pocketed something Lillie gave him. A marshal approached and made him reveal it.

“It’s a handkerchief,” Dimora said, producing a cloth inside a plastic baggie.

The clerk called out the case.

“Are you James C. Dimora?” judge Nancy A. Vecchiarelli asked.

“Yes, your honor,” he replied.

The judge read the maximum sentences for the various charges: 20 years for one, 5 years for another. She asked for his plea.

“Not guilty, your honor,” Dimora said, almost nonchalant, but solid and certain. Naturally, his tone seemed to say.

Prosecutor Antoinette Bacon came over and whispered to Lillie. Then she announced that they needed a week to revise one condition of his bond, because of a delicate matter.

Dimora intends to stay on as county commissioner. That makes one condition of the bond, “Avoid all contact with anyone who may become a victim or witness,” awkward. Bacon said she and Lillie would work out rules to allow Dimora to continue in office, even though he’ll be “supervising people who may become victims or witnesses.” They’ll report back to the court about that on Sept. 22.

Granted bond, Dimora was free to go. He smiled at a marshal as he walked out. Reporter Peter Krouse of the Plain Dealer asked Dimora for a comment.

“I’m not guilty!” Dimora said with a smile.

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