Corruption trial of Jimmy Dimora underway; prosecutors focus on Frank Russo friendship

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - The corruption trial of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora is now underway inside an Akron Federal courtroom.

Dimora faces bribery and a host of other charges.  Opening statements by prosecutors paint him as a corrupt power broker who enriched himself. Dimoras lawyers say Frank Russo was the crook and Jimmy was just doing his job when he helped companies get work.

FBI agent Raymond Massie took the stand Monday afternoon describing the methodology used in conducting raids on Dimoras house and other locations. He also described how they got onto his trail when contractor Steve Pumper brought up their names.

In the morning session, prosecutors talked about Dimora becoming friends with Frank Russo beginning in 1998 when they both won countywide office.

Their theory of the case is that over the years, the pair built a network of friends that they did favors for, and that did favors for them.  They say there was an expectation that a meal, cash, or things like Vegas trips were intended to buy influence and that Dimora and Russo were all too willing to pay with county contracts.

Dimora's attorney said they were friends and that any gifts that were given were done out of friendship.  She says that the evidence will show that there was no contract that was voted on where Dimora hadn't consulted with county staff to make sure the contract went to the lowest bidder.

She says Frank Russo is the real crook here and that Russo, Steve Pumper and others are lying about Dimora to try and win lighter sentences.  She also detailed Dimora's previous public service in Bedford Heights and said that by getting things done for people he was simply doing his job.

Prosecutors have what amounts to a mountain of evidence against Dimora including thousands of wiretap recordings, more than two dozen hard drives of information and 350 boxes of  other evidence.  Many of Dimora's former confidants will testify against him.

The heart of Dimora's defense will be that he did nothing that any other politician hadn't done and that any gifts he got or favors he did for people were evidence of friendship not corruption.  His defense team is also expected to hammer at the fact that many of those testifying against him are doing so in an effort to reduce sentence they face after pleading guilty in their own cases.

The trial is expected to last three months unless Dimora accepts a plea deal from the government.  One has been offered, but details remain under seal.

Copyright 2012 WOIO. All rights reserved.