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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cuyahoga County Corruption Probe Turns Two

Posted By on Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 11:32 AM

The perfect gift for a second anniversary.
  • The perfect gift for a second anniversary.

The traditional gift for a second anniversary is cotton. How perfect is that?

It's the second anniversary of the Cuyahoga County corruption probe today. Two years ago the FBI blazed through government offices, personal homes, and Jimmy Dimora's extra-secret snack refrigerator, launching a snarling and expansive investigation that involves commissioners, contractors, family and friends of elected officials, and Jimmy Dimora's extra-secret Lunchables.

The Plain Dealer reports this morning that while Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo are expected to be charged before this fall's elections. A nice cotton jumpsuit ensemble, perhaps in a nice shade of orange, would make the perfect gift for the two powerful Democrats who allegedly ran the county as their personal playpen.

While it seems forever ago that this all began, and many have wondered when the Feds will just charge the dynamic duo already, this is one case the Feds don't want to screw up. Anyone remember the Mike White debacle? They've been collecting small fish, working guilty pleas into tips and testimony, and setting up what should be a slam dunk case against DiGiorno Dimora and Russo, their primary targets.

The Plain Dealer lays out the carnage so far.

Most have willingly cooperated. In general, federal prosecutors don't spend a lot of time trying their cases. About 95 percent of the people they charge with crimes plead guilty, usually to avoid harsher sentences. That's been the scenario with most of the 38 defendants prosecutors have rounded up in connection with the corruption probe.

Here is the scorecard:

• 33 guilty pleas.

• 1 anticipated guilty plea.

• 1 conviction at trial.

• 3 not guilty pleas.

Two of those pleading not guilty, Vince Russo and Joseph Bibbo, are awaiting trial. The third, former Cleveland building inspector Bobby Cuevas, expects to have his extortion charge dismissed after he finishes cooperating with prosecutors.

In many cases, those defendants who have pleaded guilty are looking at lighter sentences because they have cooperated. It was Cuevas who helped jump-start the investigation by leading the FBI to Steve Pumper, a former D-A-S Construction executive. Pumper pleaded guilty to bribing public officials, including Dimora, former Parma school board member J. Kevin Kelley and former Maple Heights school board member Santina "Sandy" Klimkowski.

Kelley and Klimkowski have also pleaded guilty to corruption charges and are expected to be key witnesses for the prosecution. Their testimony, and that of other smaller fish caught in the government's net, will be critical to the government's case against Dimora and Frank Russo. Both men have been under suspicion for the past two years and are no doubt wondering when prosecutors will strike. In early May, Dimora challenged prosecutors to either charge him or put an end to the "witch hunt."

So, happy anniversary, folks. It's been a beautiful two years. Now scurry off and try to find an orange cotton jumpsuit in size XXXXXL. It's rude not to give a gift.

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