AKRON, Ohio – Following more than a year of legal maneuvering and delays, the public corruption trial of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and co-defendant Michael Gabor got under way Thursday morning, with prosecutors claiming Dimora sold public contracts and jobs for money and sex.
Jurors were sworn in around 8:50 a.m. after clarifications on issues of evidence were discussed by attorneys and U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi.
Opening statements began around 9 a.m. with Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon telling the jury they will be hearing a case of “bribery, fraud, obstruction and conspiracy.”
“Together, Commissioner Dimora and Auditor Russo had a tremendous amount of power in this county. And before long, Dimora and Russo realized that some people were willing to buy that power,” Bacon said.
Bacon unfolded an 18-person pyramid of alleged co-conspirators with Dimora and former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo at the top of the diagram. Gabor served as an intermediary, coordinating bribes and arranging sexual favors for Dimora, she said.
Prosecutors said the case will identify public contractors and individuals seeking public jobs with health care and retirement benefits, in exchange for providing Dimora with money and sex.
Bacon said public contracts of interest to Dimora co-conspirators included the new Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center and skating rinks including the Winterhurst Ice Rink in the western Cleveland suburb of Lakewood.
Prosecutors showed jurors pictures of the inside and backyard of Dimora’s home, charging that contractors provided free brick and granite, a shed, bathhouse, new patio, roof, and outdoor pizza oven in exchange for his influence on public contracts.
The contractors’ work to Dimora’s home was described by Bacon as “transforming it to a private resort-like retreat.”
Bacon told jurors that Dimora and Russo formed a political and personal friendship while running for public office in 1998. Over time, Bacon said the two became willing to sell their influence to contractors and individuals seeking government jobs with fringe benefits.
Dimora and Russo followed rules that Bacon described as “almost a conspiracy handbook” to enrich themselves.