Judge Delays Dimora Trial Until Late January, At Least
The legal maneuvering in the much anticipated corruption trial of Jimmy Dimora is getting complicated. Dimora was first indicted in September 2010. Then last October, prosecutors filed a second indictment related to the ongoing corruption scandal. In court, Dimora's attorneys argued that their client risked facing double jeopardy if he was to be tried on both indictments. Last week, US District Court Judge Sarah Lioi dismissed that argument as frivolous. After Dimora's attorneys appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Lioi said she would delay the case until later this month.
Cleveland State University Provost and former prosecutor Geoffrey Mearns says this was the right thing to do.
Geoffrey Mearns: I never would want to suggest the judge is being overly cautious in a case where the consequences are so significant for the defense and also for the prosecution and the public, so I think it was prudent for her to exercise this caution. But you could sense at least in her comments last week that she was pretty frustrated with the defense strategy.
In her January 2nd opinion, Judge Lioi wrote "At the risk of stating the obvious, Dimora's freedom has yet to be placed in jeopardy once, let alone twice."
One of the legal issues the court of appeals will have to look at is what prosecutors can do with testimony from the first trial. At issue is possible testimony from Jimmy Dimora himself, if he takes the stand. Prosecutors have said they would use any such testimony in their second case against him. Mearns doesn't think the defense's claim of double jeopardy has legs, but the question of what to do with Dimora's testimony may pique judges.
Geoffrey Mearns: I think the substantive appeal is borderline frivolous. I think the argument about restricting the use of Dimora's potential testimony in the first case - restricting its use in the second case - is credible.
Lewis Katz is a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. He says no matter what the appeals court ruling, US District Court Judge Lioi may have to deal with the issue herself.
Lewis Katz: I think the judge may have to make some rulings that put the testimony in this case off bounds for the second case. Otherwise, there maybe no way for the defense to defend itself without causing more problems for itself.
When the trial finally gets started, CSU's Mearns says its not clear whether or not Dimora will take the stand.
Geoffrey Mearns: If I were a betting man I would say that you are not going to see him testify. If you do, I think it will be a sign that the defense is pretty desperate.
Judge Lioi says she will revisit the trial start date on January 27th. Prosecutors have asked the Court of Appeals to expedite its decision on the case, but its not clear if it will be done by the end of the month.