AKRON, OHIO - Frank Russo, former county auditor and now government star witness, delivered dozens of quotable lines during his testimony in the federal corruption trial against former friend and county commissioner, Jimmy Dimora.
Below are the clever, catchy and crude trial quotes during the week of February 13, 2012.
From the star witness, Frank Russo:
“I had a couch in my office he liked to work off of.”
Russo told jurors while testifying he and Dimora were together frequently and Dimora often came to Russo's office.
"We had thousands and thousands of people. Right there I knew 'all those people want access to us,'"
Russo said in describing a 1988 campaign victory party he and Dimora held at the Holiday Inn in Independence.
“We both had charming personalities. We were very vibrant and very personable. We know their face. We ask them how they are. That’s worth a million dollars to anyone... Jimmy Dimora and I were two of the most powerful and well known people in Cuyahoga County... We had very powerful jobs."
Russo said describing himself and Dimora.
“We only worked with a select crowd, intermediaries and people we trusted.”
Russo said describing who he would work with to steer contracts and take bribes.
“There were long lines. People would stick money in your pocket. A 20, a 50, an envelope. When I got home I checked my pocket and there was $2,000 in an envelope from someone who wanted a job.”
Russo said about an envelope shoved in his pocket at a fundraiser by a father who wanted a county job for his son.
“I didn’t work that hard for the $50,000 I got. It was a bonus to me.”
Russo said in explaining how attorney Anthony Calabreeze III allegedly gave Russo $50,000 to serve as his "broker" on a property deal for which Russo also authorized a $20,000 county property tax reduction.
“There were a couple times we'd have prostitutes over. I’d tell the kids ‘I have some friends coming over and dad needs a private night tonight.'"
Russo said in describing pool parties at his house.
“The Plain Dealer never wanted to endorse me. They never liked my style or my smile.”
Russo said, complaining he could not get a newspaper endorsement.
"I was still in bed. My partner Michael was up. He gets up early and makes the coffee and roams around. The doorbell rang. Michael was up so he got the door. They said is 'Frank Russo there? This is the FBI.' Michael came running up the stairs. Oh the FBI is here, the FBI is here... I looked for my attorney’s card. I opened the door. I said good morning. I said you’ll have to call my attorney. Here is his card... Many, many agents came in and searched my home from maybe nine o’clock until 3:30 p.m. or so. We all sat in the dining room with the FBI and then we sat on the back porch... I’m not going to tell anybody about this raid. This is between the FBI and I... It was one helicopter after another helicopter after another helicopter. For the rest of the day, I just sat there in shock."
Quotes from Russo describing the FBI raid on his home and news helicopters flying over his house.
"The more you dig, the more you snoop, the more people could find out about things. I didn’t want anyone in the race snoopin’ in my business. When they started to snoop, look what happened. Here I am today."
Russo said as to why he did not want Republican political challengers or the newspaper looking into what he was doing in his office.
“It kind of got stale. Not the bread, the work.”
Russo said about defendant Michael Gabor leaving work in his family’s deli after paying Russo $5,000 for a county job paying near $40,000 plus benefits.
"Because when Mr. Gabor asked, he had an envelope of cash. She didn't."
Russo said describing why he gave a woman a job when defendant Michael Gabor asked him to do so, but not when the woman had asked him.
"They treated us like we were royalty. It was an experience I'll never forget."
Russo told federal prosecutor Antoinette Bacon how he was treated at The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas on a trip paid for by a contractor.
“A sponsor is basically someone who is going to pay the bill. They had to be a friend of Jimmy’s, a friend of mine or anybody in the group. There was like a little network of us. Anybody’s friend or relative, they could be a sponsor... Sponsors received special attention on anything that came up... a daughter getting a parking ticket, son wanting a job, brother getting a contract...”
Russo said in explaining that he and Dimora would seek "sponsors" to pay for dinners and drinks.
“No, I didn’t,” Russo said. “I never saw Jimmy sponsor a dinner.”
Russo told prosecutor Antoinette Bacon when she asked if Russo ever saw Dimora "sponsor" a dinner.
“He doesn’t have a great personality but he makes up for it upstairs.”
Russo said he told people in describing county employee Samir Mohammad, who Russo said provided bribe money in an effort to get a county administrator job.
"When we introduced someone to you as our friend, they took it very, very, very seriously... We were
the two most powerful people in Cleveland – in Cuyahoga County. We were intimidating. We really got noticed."
Russo said in describing himself and Dimora.
"I could give raises out, give promotions out, hire people, fire people.”
Russo testified as to having total power in personnel decisions in his office.
"Many judges over the years were called."
Russo testified in claiming he and Dimora called numerous judges for favors.
“I nicknamed them stickers so let’s call them stickers.”
Russo said of the logos with his smiling face plastered all over the county.
“The crimes I was charged with were bribery, conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice. There were 21 counts…My sentence was 22 years.”
Russo told jurors while providing information on his background.
“In 1973, I walked into office. I had a positive attitude. I wanted to help people. I walked out of the office with a frown on my face and tears in my eyes 30 years later.”
Russo told jurors, a statement some said he has given multiple times since admitting guilt.
“I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t face the world. I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, I committed 21 crimes…there was nothing I could do about it to help myself, my children and my family'…I took it upon myself to go to the U.S. Attorney’s office. I thought two wrongs don’t make a right. I am sorry for it. I am humiliated about it…At least by cooperating it gave me the opportunity to show myself as a person again. Yeah I did something wrong but now I want to do something right."
Russo said in his lengthy explanation of why he is cooperating with the government.
“This is a very, very hard thing for me to do at this point with Mike Gabor and Jimmy.”
Russo interjected at one point in his testimony.
“...to hold my children harmless. I wanted my whole family to be protected.”
Russo said about why he negotiated his children and domestic partner out of potential federal charges if he cooperated with prosecutors.
"We should have been helping people, but we were helping ourselves."
Russo testified about his wrongdoing.
From other witness testimony:
"They were centers of influence in Cuyahoga County."
Businessman Charles Randazzo told jurors in describing Dimora and Russo.
“They help me, I help them... Opening doors where I might have a chance of doing business. Because it’s a difficult arena that government sector."
Randazzo said about his doing favors in exchange for expecting favors.
From wiretap phone conversations:
"For food, he'll do anything."
Russo said about Dimora in a wiretap call.
“Always waiting for the other shoe to fall you know or drop or whatever they say.”
Dimora said in a May 28, 2008 wiretap conversation with contractor Ferris Kleem.
“Public service is my motto.”
Dimora said in a tongue-in-cheek manner to contractor Steven Pumper of D-A-S Construction. Dimora told Pumper he was there to “help my friends make more money than they already have” made.
“To the best of my recollection I don’t recall.”
J. Kevin Kelley, then-county employee, and then-union boss Robert Rybak joked in an apparent reference to pretending not to remember details should they be questioned on their activities.
“I just thought it would be good if they saw payments towards it... I just want to cover all the bases so you don’t have a problem and I don’t have a problem.”
Dimora said in seeking a contractor's invoice for work on his home once he learned of the FBI investigation.
From the attorneys:
“There is no evidence Mr. Dimora performed any official act on behalf of Mrs. Coppers.”
Bill Whitaker, Dimora defense attorney, said in requesting the judge throw out prosecution evidence of Gina Meuti-Coppers having sex with Dimora in exchange for a full-time job with benefits at Bedford Municipal Court.
From elsewhere at the federal courthouse:
"Food so good, they guard it with guns."
Mike Buzek of The Culinary Chameleon courthouse cafe said about his safe environment and food served.
From U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi:
“Mr. Russo you can continue with cross-examination of the witness."
Lioi said in error, calling Dimora's attorney Bill Whitaker by Russo's name as everyone in the courtroom, including Lioi, broke out in laughter. "I'm ready," Whitaker replied.
"Counsel, please let's keep this professional."
Lioi told attorneys after Bill Whitaker said, "I'm not so sure what is so funny," following giggling by prosecutors when Whitaker objected to hundreds of pieces of prosecution evidence.
"It's nice to know you're still participating, Mr. Christman."
Lioi said to Leif Christman, defendant Michael Gabor's attorney, after Christman made a comment following a very, very lengthy series of objections by attorney Bill Whitaker.
"I can't leave a jury sitting out there while we're doing these types of motions."
Lioi told attorneys they work over the holiday weekend if they did not finish Friday proceedings.
Dimora and Gabor have maintained their innocence of all federal charges.
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