Kelley on cross in Dimora corruption trial: 'I get $4,000 a month on disability'

AKRON, Ohio - J. Kevin Kelley continued to look frequently at the jurors when he answered questions in full sentences on  cross examination at federal court, as his mental disabilities and payment from the state each month came into the spotlight.

Jimmy Dimora's defense attorney, Andrea Whitaker, jumped around in cross after the lunch break, and tried to poke holes in Kelley's credibility. One example is when Whitaker questioned Kelley about how many poker parties he went to with Dimora at the Stonebridge condo. Kelley answered up to a dozen times.

In later questioning, Kelley said, "A couple times a week in winter when the pool at Dimora's house wasn't open."

"But if you played a couple of times a week – we'd be talking about a couple hundred times right?" Whitaker said.

It appeared the defense was portraying Kelley as confused in his memory on a number of issues.

In the cross examination by co-defendant Michael Gabor's attorney, Kelley was asked to recount his story about the alleged bribe money for a judge.

Lief Christman questioned Kelley's account of the gun, the ceiling and the cash, allegedly tied to Gabor's divorce.

Kelley testified Gabor gave him $10,000 to give to Mark Dottore, who was assigned receivership trustee cases by Judge James Celebrezze. The alleged scheme was to get the judge to release a restraining order on the sale of Gabor's family deli, and rule in favor of Gabor in his divorce.

When Kelley said he gave the envelope of cash to Dottore, Kelley testified, "He said, ‘I'll talk to the judge and get it taken care of.'"

But, Celebrezze removed himself from the case after Gabor had given Kelley the $10,000 for the alleged bribe. Kelley testified Gabor thought Kelley kept the money for himself, so Kelley tried to get the money back from Dottore.

Kelley said Dottore stood on his desk, moved a ceiling panel, took out a gun and $5,000 cash, put back the gun, gave Kelley the $5,000 cash.

"He said that was all the money he had," Kelley testified. Kelley went on to say he started making payments to Gabor so that their friendship would be not affected.

Christman pointed out Kelley "didn't mention Gabor of being in a bribe with a judge" until his fifth meeting with FBI agents. Kelley could not recall, and eventually said, "I don't know."

"Would you like me to show you your statement to the FBI?" Christman said.

Dottore has never been charged in the case. Celebrezze was never charged in the federal conspiracy and has said he never was offered or took any bribes. 

Christman pointed out that during the time of the alleged bribe, Kelley was "suffering from untreated bipolar disorder… with hallucinations."

Kelley agreed and answered, "I would be in my basement sleeping – trying to sleep – and would wake up occasionally hearing things."

Christman talked about the nature of Kelley's friendship with Gabor, Dimora and others before the FBI raids.

"When you described drinking and joking around at the pool, the conversations and the words that were said were not to be taken literally?"

"Sometimes there were comments made in a joking way, but some were really truthful," Kelley said.

Christman's implication was that the wiretaps before the FBI raids, played over the last several weeks for the jury, were simply an example of friends having fun, and not being serious.

"When you were approached by the FBI, you knew you'd done a lot of things wrong," Christman said. Yet Christman said Kelley still worked for the county for nearly a year after the raid, making around $10,000 a month. And, it was during that time Kelley worked to get on mental disability.

Christman asked how much his disability payment is each month, and Kelley answered, "about $4,000 a month. It's based on the amount you make, and the years you served."

Kelley was referring to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, also known as OPERS. The disability payment he receives is calculated using what he earned in years of service with Cuyahoga County. When Kelley resigned from the engineer's office, he made more than $140,000, but he also held other public service positions in the years before that. Kelley also resigned from the Parma Schools board because of the corruption investigation.

Kelley admits he took thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

Cross examination of Kelley was continuing mid-afternoon Friday.

Gabor and Dimora say they are innocent of all federal charges.

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