AKRON, Ohio - Cross examination by defense attorneys wrapped up mid-Wednesday afternoon at Jimmy Dimora's corruption trial, as federal prosecutors get ready for redirect.
Michael Gabor's defense attorney highlighted testimony by Frank Russo that shows Russo used bribes to enrich himself, and as the defense tried to show Gabor was just a hard-working, middle-class man who simply did what his boss asked of him.
But Russo insisted to the jury that Gabor was a trusted intermediary who helped arrange bribes for his own benefit, during the time he knew Gabor and while Gabor worked in his office.
Gabor was hired in September 2005 at $39,995 a year. Russo said he asked that Gabor be started at a few dollars under $40,000, "so it if ever hits the newspaper, $39,995 looks a lot less than $40,000," Russo said. "Just to play safe, I would do that to a lot of people."
Defense attorney Leif Christman asked Russo if there was any discussion of Gabor paying Russo any sum of money for Gabor's job.
"I didn't expect the money in my hand when Michael got the job," Russo said. "Michael said he would take care of me."
But Christman kept questioning Russo about the exact date and time when Gabor allegedly paid Russo $5,000 for his job. Eventually, Russo said, "I'm not quite sure. I'm not 100 percent sure."
Christman also pointed out Gabor received no raises during his five years of employment with the county, except for one cost of living adjustment. He added that other people Russo hired for bribes got raises, and some were substantial. Russo could not recall how many people he specifically arranged onto the payroll for bribes, and could only say "10-15."
The auditor's office had up to 319 people on the payroll, Russo testified. Since he left office, the number of auditor employees has been reduced by at least 100.
Christman implied Gabor was a hard-working guy who took his job seriously who often worked out in the field placing "county seals" on all gas pumps, scales and registers in the county along with other employees from the weights and measures department.
"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 defense said Gabor often did errands for Russo and Dimora, sometimes outside the typical work day. Christman pointed out Russo had Gabor pick up Jerry Springer from the airport in the middle of a work day. Springer was in town for an event for Russo's brother.
Parma Mayor Dean DePiero's name came up during cross examination of Frank Russo in Jimmy Dimora's and Michael Gabor's corruption trial.
Russo testified he had an informal meeting with DePiero at a fundraiser when J. Kevin Kelly was planning to run for mayor. Russo said DePiero told him, ‘I would beat Kevin 2-to-1, no matter what.' DePiero is not charged, and is not running for re-election .
Kelley ended his run for mayor of Parma and then began working for the county, when Russo offered him a job for $90,000 a year, with only a four-day work week.
Russo said after that, DiPiero hired his son. Meanwhile, DiPiero's sister Lisa had started working at Russo's office in 2000.
Christman appeared to be trying to align Russo more closely with Kelley, who already has pleaded guilty and testified in this trial. But repeatedly, Russo said he felt closer to Gabor than to Kelley. "That's what I feel in my heart, and that's what I'm telling you," Russo said.
By the mid-afternoon break, federal prosecutors were just starting their redirect exam of Russo, considered the government's star witness in the case.
Interestingly, an IRS agent has been in the courtroom since day one, keeping track of every penny of alleged bribes, cash envelopes, dinners, wine, trips, work done at Dimora's house. He's expected to testify, adding up the total amount of the fraud so calculate what Dimora will have to pay taxes on.
Dimora and Gabor maintain their innocence on all federal charges.