Jerry Springer, food fight come up in Jimmy Dimora's corruption trial

AKRON, Ohio - Testimony from John Kevin Kelley had some lively moments in federal court late Friday afternoon, including talk about a dinner at a downtown restaurant with talk show host Jerry Springer.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon asked Kelley to name some things of value given to him on re-direct. One he named was a dinner at XO, a steakhouse in downtown Cleveland. About 20 people were there, he said, including himself, former county commissioner Jimmy Dimora, former auditor Frank Russo and Springer.

Kelley testified Russo had Springer come into town to attend an event of Russo's brother's. The dinner was after the event.

The XO dinner bill was split by Michael Baker & Associates, and Oracle, Kelley said. Representatives from each company also were at the dinner. The Baker company has business with the county, Kelley testified.

Then Bacon played another FBI wiretap. This one was between Russo and Dimora making plans about how to entertain Springer after his scheduled event. They decided on dinner downtown.

"I'll tell Kevin to make it at ‘XO' - that's a nice place," Dimora said, referring to Kelley making reservations. "We're gonna have these whores, so don't bring the girls from the office," Dimora said.

"That'll be comical over there, no?" Russo said. "Gabor is pickin' him up at 3:15 tomorrow, and then takin' him to the Ritz."

Kelley also said Baker provided loge seats for a Browns game in Pittsburgh, where Baker's company headquarters is located. Kelley said there was a lot of food in the loge, and he said Dimora started a food fight.

Dimora defense attorney Andrea Whitaker asked Kelley for clarification on exactly who was there at the XO dinner. "Some of Frank Russo's staff was there, weren't they?" Whitaker asked.

Kelley replied not any women staff members, because Dimora didn't want them there.

"Jerry Springer was there, wasn't he?" Whitaker asked.

"Yeah, but he doesn't work for Frank Russo," Kelley replied.

Whitaker jumped around in her re-cross, which appeared disjointed and seemed to confuse Kelley. Several times Kelley paused and said he did not understand a question. Whitaker was short with Kelley and rephrased her questions, sometimes with a combative tone. At one point the judge jumped in.

"This has been asked and answered, "Judge Sara Lioi said. "It's just argumentative now.'

Earlier Friday afternoon, Michael Gabor's defense attorney, Lief Christman, implied on his cross examination the FBI wiretaps the jury has heard over several days, were simply a bunch of guys joking around with each other - banter between good friends who would call each other names and talk themselves up.

But on her re-direct examination of Kelley late Friday, prosecutor Bacon took a stern approach.

"When Michael Gabor told you it 'cost him five' to get the job at the auditor's office, was that a joke?" Bacon asked. "It was not," Kelley answered.

"When Kevin Payne complained about how much it was costing him for Russo and Dimora, was he joking?" Bacon asked.

"No, he was not," Kelley said.

Bacon continued with that line of questioning, referring to several other schemes Kelley has already pleaded guilty to. Then she asked, "When Steve Pumper was first approached by the FBI on May 23, 2008, was anyone laughing?" Kelley replied, "No."

Bacon also played a wiretap between Dimora and Gabor from the time after Pumper was arrested. The tone of the call was tense and somewhat cryptic.

"Was any of that a joke, or laughing around?" Bacon asked Kelley. "None of it," he replied, his voice tight.

Kelley will be sentenced at a later date. He testified he has to pay more than a half million dollars in restitution to the county, and he owes the Internal Revenue Service $200,000.

He flew in from Florida for the trial, where he lives with his family on $4,000 a month in state disability payments.

Dimora and Gabor have maintained that they are innocent of all charges.

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