AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Frank Russo took the stand in the Jimmy Dimora corruption trial Tuesday.
Russo testified that he and Dimora regularly went out to expensive meals. Each time they would go, they would be sure that a "sponsor" was invited. A sponsor was a person who was expected to pay for the meal. A sponsor was typically a contractor or someone who wanted a favor from the powerful duo. In Russo's words, "If you were a sponsor, of course you got special treatment.
If there wasn't a sponsor present, at the end of the meal Russo said they'd simply call tell Kevin Kelley to find one or pay for the meal himself. Another time they called a contractor at home and asked for his credit card number to charge an expensive meal. The contractor wouldn't give it directly to Dimora or Russo figuring that they'd use it repeatedly so he got the waiter on the phone and gave it to him.
When he was asked about Dimora's likes and dislikes, he listed four priorities. Dimora's backyard pool "the love of his life", expensive drinks "top shelf stuff", cash "he really liked cash" and pretty girls "prostitutes."
In sometimes rambling testimony, Russo confirmed many of the schemes that have been outlined by others in the case. Being Dimora's most trusted ally, the testimony, while repetitious, is compelling. Russo has personal knowledge of many of the bribes that were given and the official acts that were done as repayment. For example, Russo told a story about hearing Dimora speak to Judge Bridget McCafferty about fixing a case for DAS Construction executive Steve Pumper. Pumper's company did tens of thousands of dollars in work on Dimora's Independence home. Prosecutors say he never paid for the work until the FBI approached Pumper.
While on the stand Russo painted a picture of Dimora as a man so powerful that he got people hired over the objections of department heads. During a phone call where the duo were considering going on a gambling junked to Atlantic City Russo was hesitant. He warned Dimora that with a Las Vegas trip upcoming it might be unwise to be seen together with contractor William Neiheiser who was a "big gambler" and who Russo thought had been investigated by the FBI. He cautioned Dimora "we been out of trouble so far lets keep it that way." Dimora said "I'm not going, you made up my mind for me, I'm not going".
Some of Russo's testimony is almost an outline on how to bribe somebody. Russo said, "You always had to find an intermediary who was a person who knew the Judge very, very, very well. You never want anyone finding out what you're doing to you have to use the very best person possible." Russo said he asked Judge McCafferty's "help" on cases at least two times a year. He said "help" was giving the people Russo called on behalf of "the benefit of the doubt."
Russo said he is cooperating with the government because being charged has become a nightmare to him. He claimed he couldn't look at himself in the mirror in the morning.