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Former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora is appealing a decision by an Akron Federal Court judge to deny his request for release from prison.
WKYC Channel 3 News reports that Dimora's attorneys filed the appeal with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnnatti.
Dimora has been in federal prison at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown since he was convicted on 33 of 34 corruption counts on March 9th during a trial in U.S. District Court in Akron.
On March 20, Dimora asked U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi to be released prior to his July 25 sentencing and his still-scheduled second trial set to begin Oct. 17th.
A jury in Akron Federal Court has found former Cuyahoga County Commissioner and Democratic Party chairman Jimmy Dimora guilty on 37 of 38 corruption, mail fraud, and bribery counts after more than a week of deliberations. Co-defendant Michael Gabor was found guilty on eight charges.
Charges included bribery, conspiracy, racketeering, and obstruction of justice.
The jury of seven men and five women returned the guilty verdict just after noon today..
Dimora found guilty of 37 of the 38 charges. Dimora was found not guilty of one count of mail fraud involving a scheme related to Dimora using campaign money to pay for his wife's 50th birthday party at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven.
Dimora and Gabor each face up to 30 years in federal prison. Akron Federal Court Judge Sara Lioi ordered Dimora and Gabor held without bail until another hearing on Tuesday inviolving the jury.
Among the most interesting and, perhaps, entertaining aspects of the corruption trial of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner and County Democratic Party boss Jimmy Dimora, is its treatment by the media.
By far, most of the Cleveland-based news organizations following the trial -- The Plain Dealer, all four television stations, and some radio stations -- follow as any spectator would: inside the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi at the Seiberling Federal Building in Akron.
Lioi has adopted the anti-Judge Ito (my term, in honor of O.J. Simpson presiding criminal trial Judge Lance Ito) view of managing the reporters covering the People v Jimmy Dimora. An excellent aggregation of the Plain Dealer's coverage of the case can be found here. This includes the time-honored federal court restriction against microphones and cameras in the courtroom. Reporters take notes then share what transpired during breaks in the testimony, which at times has been lurid. Testimony includes wiretapped phone conversations and video that includes now-famous trips to Las Vegas for gambling binges allegedly underwritten by a contractor as well as engagements with prostitutes.
The ban on electronic media in federal court isn't new, but what's unusual how one local station, Raycom's WOIO-TV, decided to handle its presentation.
19ActionNews decided against a courtroom artist and the ethically dubious use of actors to re-create testimony. Instead, WOIO opted for the Puppet Trial.
For those unable to view the video, here's a direct link to The Puppet Court.
This isn't the first visit to a controversial approach for WOIO; defenders like their aggressive style, while critics dismiss what they see as tabloid presentation. The use of puppets to portray what they cannot report on using today's tools is either creative reporting or pushing the judiciary over the line.
Some viewers will be outraged, saying the use of characters far more familiar to little tykes watching PBS is an abuse of the solemnity of the judicial system. Others, including this writer, have great respect for the creative vision that uses one of the oldest forms of entertainment (and satire) to not only portray details surrounding one of the biggest public corruption cases to hit Ohio but also make a statement on the federal judiciary's long-outdated insistence that public understanding of justice is still rooted in the time of Johannes Gutenberg and now the technology employed a thousand years ago by storytellers: puppetry.
We should consider the irony that much of the government's case against Mr. Dimora was built on the same type of technology citizens are denied in seeing justice at work; recorded telephone conversation, video surveillance, the use of computer programs to track transactions and contracts are tools the people's government (and the defense) have available to present their case. But the tool of the people -- the media, through its reporters -- cannot use the recordings or actual testimony of those involved because it's in federal court.
The time has come for federal courts to allow the system of justice to embrace the very same tools nearly every citizen in the United States has access to on an everyday basis. Camera and microphone coverage burns away the shadowy fog of justice delivered behind closed doors. It isn't always an orderly process, but it is a process emboldened in the First Amendment which provides Congress make no law "...abridging the freedom of the speech, or of the press."
WOIO-TV News Director Dan Salamone tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer he came up with the concept driven, in part, because "some of the aspects of this trial that are circus-like..." and he opted to air the "Puppet Court" at the end of the newscast to show viewers ""the more absurd aspects of the trial."
No free and open society should tolerate someone else pulling the strings otherwise when it comes to the public's justice system. That is, unless we're comfortable with the image of Big Bird sending folks to the Big House.
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