Dimora trial focuses on rigged election for Frank Russo

AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Fixing an election for Frank Russo was the hot topic at the Jimmy Dimora corruption trial on Thursday.

Joseph Gallucci, a man who prosecutors say conspired with Frank Russo to fix a Russo election. took the stand Thursday morning. Gallucci entered the race for County Auditor against Russo and then ran a sham campaign, eventually dropping out of the race when it was too late for another candidate to run against Russo. Gallucci later got a job with the county.

Gallucci testified about how he wanted a job with the county so met with J Kevin Kelley to discuss it.  He said he would raise money for Russo in exchange for a job.  It was suggested he raise $15,000, but later they said he should run against Russo in exchange for the job.  He says he though it was "crazy" and initially declined but then changed his mind.  He and the others then agreed that he would run and then drop out after the primary.  That is what happened and he was hired.

Gallucci says before the election he met with his supposed opponent  Frank Russo and Michael Gabor, to discuss his candidacy.  He calls Gabor a long time family friend who was comfortable making the introduction.  He testified that Russo told him "I'll take care of you."  After the meeting, his contact with Russo was through Gabor.  He wanted to withdraw from the race immediately after the primary, but Kelley and Frank Russo told him to stay in until after an August date when it would be impossible for the Republicans to put anyone in the race to oppose Russo.  Gallucci said he needed a job now, so Russo and Kelley each kicked in "supplemental" income to him totaling $4,000.  Gabor delivered Russo's $2,000 and he got a check for $2,000 from Kelley.  The checks were drawn on the account of 1-800-COMPOHIO owned by Sam Lucarelli.

Gallucci says he was introduced to Sam Lucarelli just before the checks began arriving.  He was told he would get checks from Lucarelli's company for "consulting."  The arrangement went on for five months until he was hired at the county.  He never did any work for 1-800-COMPOHIO.

There was no mention at the start of court about sidebar discussions Judge Sarah Lioi had with jurors at the end of testimony on Wednesday.  The discussion centered on several jurors saying they had heard about news coverage of the case.

The Plain Dealer reports that the judge was overheard using the word "puppet" in the discussion.  This is a reference to a 19 Action News feature "The Puppets Court" a nightly feature that lampoons some of the more outrageous testimony in the case.  No jurors were dismissed, they were warned not to have any conversation about any element of the case.

Dimora's trial shifted Thursday afternoon to his relationship with Robert Rybak, the former business manager for the Local 55 Plumbers Union. Jurors listened to wiretapped conversations between Dimora and Rybak and other public officials discussing ways to get better pay for Rybak's wife, Linda.

Robert Rybak was charged with bribery of a public official, embezzlement and tampering with a witness. He pleaded guilty to his crimes back in 2010 and was sentenced to 27 months in prison. Rybak admitted to doing favors for Dimora in exchange for obtaining a raise for his county-employed wife, Linda Rybak, and helping plumbers union workers obtain county jobs.

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