CINCINNATI -- A former county commissioner found guilty in a wide-ranging public corruption case in northeastern Ohio appealed his conviction Saturday, arguing that his federal trial was unfair.
Ex-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora asks in his appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that the court overturn his March 2012 convictions on 32 bribery-related offenses, drop four of the charges and grant him a new trial on the remaining 28.
Dimora, also a former Democratic Party chairman in Cleveland, is serving a 28-year sentence in a federal West Virginia prison. His trial capped an investigation that led to more than 50 convictions involving county officials, employees and contractors who prosecutors say traded bribes for government jobs and contracts. Afterward, voters replaced the three-commissioner county government in Cleveland with a county executive and council.
In his appeal, Dimora argues that U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi improperly prevented the defense from showing the jury evidence that Dimora never tried to hide that he was receiving gifts. The appeal says that while Dimora never disputed taking the items and disclosed them as gifts in publicly filed ethics reports, the judge barred their admission in court while allowing prosecutors to say repeatedly that Dimora had never declared them.
"The court's ruling excluding the ethics reports was wrong as a matter of law," the appeal says. "This erroneous ruling allowed the government to mislead the jury regarding whether Dimora acted with criminal intent."
The appeal also says the jury was given improper instructions and wasn't told of "the important difference between bribery and lobbying."
Before Lioi sentenced Dimora, his attorneys asked for leniency because of his poor health and pointed to similar corruption cases that resulted in sentences of just a few years. A 28-year prison sentence for the 57-year-old Dimora, they argued, amounted to a death sentence.
The government said Dimora took bribes for nearly a decade, including a Las Vegas trip that involved a woman who was paid $1,000 to give him a massage in his hotel room. Court records list other alleged bribes, including home renovations, an Ohio State football jersey worth $3,600, high-end restaurant meals, limousine service, use of a condominium and up to $2,000 toward the cost of a Rolex watch.
In a heated run-up to his indictment, Dimora angrily denied wrongdoing and invited FBI agents to come after him.
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