Thursday, September 9, 2010

What about Dimora?

OK, Cleveland. Get ready for the Jimmy Dimora trial.

No, Dimora hasn’t been charged with a crime -- Frank Russo was. But I think the feds are ready. They’ve got about all the witnesses against the Big D they’re going to get.

Prosecutors surely wanted Russo to testify against Dimora. That's probably why they waited until now to charge Russo -- they were trying to get him to crack. But Russo wouldn't do it. Today’s story says Russo's plea deal doesn’t require him to testify against any public officials.

Loyalty was at the heart of Russo’s corruption. “My motto is everybody helps everybody out,” today’s charges quote him as saying. Now he can take his pride in loyalty with him to prison. He gets the feds to go easy on his son and let his sister and housemate off the hook. He agrees to do more time -- possibly 20 years -- rather than testify against Dimora or judges Bridget McCafferty and Steven Terry (PO1, PO4 and PO16 in today’s filing).

The feds must have decided they can get Jimmy without Frank. After all, they have six men lined up to testify that they bribed Dimora. Three have pleaded guilty to giving him cash: Steve Pumper ($33,000), Ferris Kleem ($6,000), and J. Kevin Kelley ($1,200 or so). Three others -- Kevin Payne, John Valentin and Nicholas Zavarella – pleaded guilty to giving Dimora gifts or favors.

Those six guys don’t seem to have gotten huge rewards in return. Nudges and phone calls and recommendations from the big guy, sure. But even Dimora’s alleged attempt to nudge a $38 million contract to Kleem while they partied in Vegas failed. That’s probably the reason for Dimora’s defiance, his insistence that he’s innocent, his daring the feds to charge him. His defense is he never crossed the line, never steered anything to his friends.

Still, I think the prosecutors have run out of patience. Consider the timing of today's charges: two days after the county primary. The feds didn’t want to file big charges right before an election, lest they be accused of bias, so they waited until right after. Now, they’ve gotten one of their two targets out of office before their terms expire at year's end. Since they know Russo won’t testify, their way is clear to bring what they’ve got against Dimora.

So will they do it really fast, or wait until just after the November election?

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