© 2022 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Government & Politics

Federal judge cuts 5 years from Jimmy Dimora's prison sentence, moving release date to 2031

jimmy dimora frank russo 1998 Department of Justice.jpg
U.S. Department of Justice
Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora (right) and former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo celebrate on Election Night in 1998. Both would later go to federal prison, and Russo testified against Dimora in his corruption trial.

A federal judge in Akron reduced former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora’s sentence by five years at a hearing Wednesday, much less of a reduction than Dimora had requested.

District Court Judge Sara Lioi reduced Dimora’s sentence from 28 years to 23 years, moving his release date to 2031.

The sentence reduction is in response to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision involving the former governor of Virginia that narrowed what actions amount to taking a bribe. Two of Dimora’s convictions were overturned because of the new definition of bribery.

His lawyers asked for a further reduction because of Dimora’s age, health issues and because his sentence was longer than many other defendants convicted of similar crimes.

Lioi dismissed those arguments. Dimora declined to speak on his behalf.

“The reach of his corruption was far and wide,” Lioi said in announcing her decision Wednesday. “It was the type of conduct that undermines the public’s trust in their government.”

The 66-year-old was convicted in 2012 for 32 counts of bribery, conspiracy, mail and tax fraud and obstruction of justice.

During his 37-day trial, the scope of Dimora’s corruption was laid bare. While serving as county commissioner from 1998 to 2010, he accepted meals, home improvements, gambling trips, the service of prostitutes and cash in exchange for his influence.

The U.S Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio argued at his resentencing hearing that the overturning of the two convictions, which were referred to as the Zavarella scheme in court documents, should have a minimal effect on Dimora’s sentence.

“The Zavarella scheme also accounted for only approximately $34,000 of the $450,000 value of the payments Dimora received and the things he obtained,” prosecutors wrote. “This scheme, factually unremarkable in light of Dimora’s other schemes and a mere drop in the ocean of Dimora’s conduct, does not alter the viability of Dimora’s other counts of conviction or otherwise materially undercut Dimora’s culpability and the breadth, scope and egregiousness of his crimes.”

Dimora’s attorney, Philip Kushner, argued that his sentence is far longer that what similar defendants have received.

Citing data from the United States Sentencing Commission, Kushner said 93% of defendants with similar histories and convictions received sentences that were below federal guidelines. Dimora’s original sentence and new one are in the middle of the range based on federal sentencing guidelines.

“One of the things the court has to take into account is to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities between similarly situated defendants,” Kushner said.

According to Kushner, the average sentence for similar defendants nationwide is about 10 years.

“The data is remarkable,” said Kushner, who added after the sentence was announced that Dimora plans to appeal the decision.

Dimora turns 67 later this month. He’s had COVID-19 in prison twice, has heart problems, diabetes and uses a wheelchair. Dimora is being held at a federal medical center in Massachusetts.

Lioi sided with attorneys for the government and dismissed those arguments.

“It appears most of the medical conditions are the same as at the time of sentencing,” Lioi said. “Nothing has been submitted from the institution or Mr. Dimora that shows his medical condition can’t be handled.”

Lioi closed the hearing by returning to the severity of the crimes that Dimora committed for years as a Cuyahoga County commissioner and head of the county Democratic Party.

“In this case, it was more than just corruption," Lioi said. "It was more than just obstruction. It was more than just tax fraud. It was all of those things for an extended period of time."