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July 31, 2012

High-profile Cleveland corruption case culminates with 28-year prison term for Jimmy Dimora

As reported in this local article, headlined "Jimmy Dimora sentenced to 28 years in prison, defense attorney calls it a 'death sentence'," a very high-profile federal criminal corruption case involving Cleveland politicians concluded with a very long sentence handed down this afternoon. Here is how the local article begins:

U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi handed down a 28-year sentence to former county Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, who was convicted in March of racketeering and 32 other bribery- and corruption-related crimes.

Afterward, Stephen D. Anthony, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland FBI said: "There are lots of reasons to be positive and optimistic going forward. It is our hope this case will give pause to any individual who considers violating the public trust."

Dimora, 57, gave an emotional brief statement in court today, denying any wrongdoing or that he bilked Cuyahoga County taxpayers. Wiping tears from his face, Dimora also asked Judge Sara Lioi to not separate him from his family because of his health.

His attorney, William Whitaker, said Dimora's statement to the court was true and accurate -- that he never traded his votes for anything. He said his defense has raised a number of issues, including Dimora's ability to get a fair trial. They will appeal those issues, as well as the 28-year sentence, which he called "grossly unfair." Whitaker called Lioi's ruling a "death sentence."

Dimora would be 85 years old if he were to complete the 28-year prison sentence. His attorneys requested he be sentenced to prison in Buckner, N.C., because of its health facilities for prisoners. Lioi said she would recommend it.

While using his walker as he was escorted from the courtroom, Dimora said to prosecutors, "I hope you guys are happy."

Before she handed down the sentence, Lioi said Dimora abused his power as a politician. “The reach of his corruption was far and wide,” Lioi said. "The destruction left in its wake is incalculable."

The conduct was part of daily workings in Cuyahoga County, a pervasive pattern of corruption, she said. "In the world of Cuyahoga County corruption, they had somewhat of a symbiotic relationship," she said.

Lioi said that while Dimora did good things as mayor of Bedford Heights, his behavior become less about helping others and more about helping Jimmy Dimora. "Somewhere along the way he began using his power and authority for his own benefit."

This just-before-final-sentencing local article about the Dimora case reveals how guideline calculations and lawyer advocacy might have played a role in this sentencing judgment:

U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi said [based on her] federal sentencing guideline [calculations] that Dimora could be looking at between 292 to 365 months in prison....

Federal prosecutors have asked Lioi to put Dimora behind bars for at least 22 years for racketeering and 31 other corruption-related charges. Federal probation department officials recommended Dimora be sentenced to life in prison, while defense lawyers had asked for a much lighter, although unspecified, sentence....

Dimora's attorneys argu[ed] he should get less time due to physical condition and age. Andrea Whitaker, one of Dimora’s attorney, asked for the court to consider less of a prison sentence due to what she described as his “ailing health” conditions.

“Prison is a more severe experience for people with health conditions,” Whitaker said. "Mr. Dimora's health issues are real, they aren't imagined." Whitaker said mass behind his lungs and also suffered from an aneurysm. She also said he had other health related conditions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon, however, said Dimora had the same health issues when he committed the crimes. “He’s only 57 years old,” Bacon said. “He is a relatively young man who has a long life ahead of him.”

Dimora is going to need to have a long life ahead of him if he will even be free again (unless he can get some kind of relief on appeal).  Even if he gets full credit for good behavior, the lengthy prison term given to Dimora today means he cannot be free until at least 2036 and is in his 80s.

As an interesting point of reference, I think it is notable that Dimora's sentence is fully twice as long as the sentence given to former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (basic here). Indeed, I cannot recall and am unaware of any sentence for political corruption longer than even 20 years, and thus Dimora may well have today received the longest sentence for political corruption in modern history.

July 31, 2012 at 05:06 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Got what he deserved--good riddance.

His attorney was an absolute joke during the trial. After being called out several times for filing "frivolous" motions, it doesn't surprise me that they would seriously ask for a lenient sentence for some of the worst corruption in Cleveland history (and maintain the guy's innocence in light of the overwhelming evidence against him, which Dimora never attempted to explain or contest). The city is still recovering from this scum's "kiss-the-ring" antics.

I have no doubt Judge Lioi's meticulous attention to the trial will be affirmed on appeal.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Jul 31, 2012 5:20:13 PM

Doug, this sentence is fully twice as long as Blagojevich's sentence, but it's not "the longest sentence for political corruption in modern history" nor is it as novel or unusual as it may seem at first blush. See, eg., USA v. Ciavarella, 3:09-cr-00272-EMK-2 (M.D.Pa.)(28 years)(judge-defendant sentenced 8/11/2011 for public corruption). In the actual dialogue/diction often heard at sentencing proceedings (despite Booker, Gall, Kimbrough, Pepper.... etc. etc.) judges, probation departments, and (worst of all) defense counsel too often remain influenced too strongly by inflated, non-empirical, not-necessarily-rational guidelines like 2B1.1--- however "advisory" they may be de jure.

Posted by: Defense Attorney Timothy Polishan | Jul 31, 2012 10:01:57 PM

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