AKRON, Ohio - Several people were called to testify late Monday afternoon about the good qualities they came to know in Jimmy Dimora at the former commissioner's sentencing hearing.
It took eight hours to hear their stories after a full day of financial haggling over restitution amounts, which total $451,801.52.
The first person to take the stand for Dimora was Philip Saunders, At-Large Council President of Bedford Heights.
Saunders said Dimora "helped the races come together in the city of Bedford Heights." The councilman said Dimora encouraged minority hiring and under Dimora's term as mayor was when the "first time a black person was ever hired in the city."
"Jimmy started building parks, building playgrounds," Saunders said. "He created an atmosphere you really felt positive about living in."
Saunders also recounted how Dimora actively worked for senior citizens, how Dimora liked to taste the food at public events and how Lori Dimora would clean her husband's office.
Dimora served as mayor of Bedford Heights from 1982 to 1998, prior to his election as county commissioner.
Prosecutors had no questions for Saunders.
The second witness defense attorney Bill Whitaker called to the stand was William Day, an attorney who lives in Brecksville. Day said he has a son with special needs, and Dimora always made his son feel good about himself.
"There'd be a lot of pep in his step," when his son saw Dimora, Day said.
John Teron was the third witness to testify on Dimora's behalf. He lives in Independence, next door to the Dimoras. He is also the father of a NewsChannel5 producer.
Teron testified he would see Dimora nearly every day, either in passing or at various gatherings over the years.
"I would attend their parties, or he would attend our parties," Teron said. "Great guy."
Teron said he often saw Dimora with his wife and children, and crossed paths at school functions, church and other events. The neighbor described Dimora as a "great father" and role model.
"I never saw him raise his voice… he was a normal guy," Teron said. Teron also said Dimora was with his wife often, and his wife and Lori Dimora spent time together in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning and serving.
A retired police officer testified fourth. The retiree said he came to know Dimora during the time Dimora was mayor.
"Everyone I've ever talked to… I've never heard anything but good about this man," the retiree said. "He's always respectful... he's raised three beautiful children, as far as I'm concerned."
The last person to testify was Dimora's daughter, Lisa. She talked about how many times her dad was there to support her and her brothers at school events.
"I am the worst clarinet player you will meet," Lisa said. "But he still supported me."
Lisa also said Dimora went out of his way to clear his schedule to make it to her events, and volunteered to help out at school events. She said her father is a role model because he cares about people, and she's sure that is why she won a humanitarian award at school.
Lisa also talked about her father-daughter dances with the Girl Scouts, and all of the events her dad would participate in with her two brothers.
"He showed respect for her," Lisa said of how her father treated her mother, Lori. "He even got something for her on Sweetest Day."
Dimora's sentencing hearing will continue Tuesday at 9 a.m. It's not clear who else the defense may call to take the stand in Dimora's defense. Earlier in the day, the judge stated both sides had witnesses to call, so when court resumes, it will likely begin with more testimony.
Dimora faces 22 years in federal prison on 32 corruption convictions.
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