Ohio judge rules against indicted ex-commissioner

THOMAS J. SHEERAN Associated Press Published:

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Once the head of Cleveland's powerful Democratic machine, a former county commissioner charged with racketeering and taking bribes including a $1,000 massage in Las Vegas goes on trial Wednesday.

Jimmy Dimora, charged with steering contracts and offering jobs in return for bribes, was the biggest target of an FBI investigation that emerged in 2008 and led to a voter revolt that created a new form of government for Ohio's most populous county last year.

The case against Dimora begins with the start of jury selection in U.S. District Court in Akron, 40 miles south of Dimora's political base. The location means jurors will be selected from the Akron area and mostly rural counties south of Akron.

Testimony begins Monday; the trial could last three months.

A highlight will be the testimony of a longtime Dimora friend and political ally, ex-county Auditor Frank Russo. He pleaded guilty to bribery and hopes to shorten his nearly 22-year sentence with his testimony for the prosecution.

Judge Sara Lioi arranged a conference call with attorneys Tuesday to discuss final preparations, including jury selection and how to accommodate media coverage. The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer told the judge that seven reporters likely would be assigned full-time to the trial, some dissecting testimony back in their newsroom.

In a ruling filed Monday evening, the judge refused to toss out the first of two corruption indictments against Dimora. Lioi said there was no double jeopardy involved.

She said the double jeopardy issue -- or facing two trials for the same crime -- cannot be argued until the first trial ends. No trial date has been set for the second indictment, on conspiracy charges.

Dimora's attorneys had argued that the second indictment amounted to charging him twice for the same alleged offenses, in part because he demanded a trial on the first indictment.

The government said Dimora hadn't shown evidence that the second indictment was punishment for opting for a trial on the first indictment. The government said there was no double jeopardy, only double indictments.

Dimora also has pleaded not guilty to the second indictment.

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