Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Notes from the Zimmermann Trial--Day 5

Notes from the Zimmermann trial

The usual cautionary note from the author, Liz McLemore: despite the length and detail of these notes, I’m certain that I’ve missed portions of the testimony. I’d advise anyone interested in details to consult the tapes and transcripts once they’re released. These are notes, not transcripts.

Once again, I’ve inserted my comments within square brackets [ ] throughout the text.

Day 5: Friday, August 4, 2006

I arrived a few minutes late today. Before the jury entered the courtroom, Judge Montgomery announced her decision that further evidence regarding the “straw man” candidate run by the Zimmermann campaign would not be admissible during this trial; she explained that it was “collateral to intent.”

Sixteenth witness for the prosecution: Brenda Shepherd

Shepherd explained that she works in the HR department at the City of Minneapolis; she is the senior resources consultant with Public Works.

Docherty asked Shepherd about the ethics ordinance at the City; Shepherd said city employees periodically undergo training regarding that ordinance, and HR keeps records on who attends. She explained that the city last “overhauled” the ordinance in 2003, so 4,000 city employees were trained, including City Council. Shepherd said she helped design the training materials in conjunction with the city attorneys and the Brave New Workshop. She said the city used a 40 minute training video that she had helped design; it was a parody of Dr. Phil, a popular talk-show host (called Dr. Bill in the video).

Exhibits 54, 66, and 67 were introduced, all related to the issue of training. Exhibit 54 is a sign-in sheet; Exhibit 66 is a memo from the HR director to all city officials; Exhibit 67 is the HR system training record for Zimmermann. Shepherd explained that attendees were required to sign in when they attended a training session.

Exhibit 54 is dated February 24, 2004, the date the session was held; it was entered into the computer on April 13, 2004. Zimmermann’s name is shown on this attendance sheet, second from the bottom.

Exhibit 67 is a computerized record of Zimmermann’s trainings; it shows that he participated in the training and saw the ethics video. The date given on this sheet is February 1, 2004. In response to questioning, Shepherd explained that although the training took place on February 24th, the computerized course code for all trainings held in any given month was the same (so any training held in February would show a date of February 1).

Exhibit 66 is a memo from Pam French, the HR director, to all city officials; it explains that the “primary goal of the video is to educate about the city code” of ethics. (The prosecution pointed out that the letterhead contained an upside down view of the city’s skyline.)

Government Exhibit 52, the training video featuring the talk-show host Dr. Bill, was introduced and a portion of it was shown for the jury. The video referenced ordinance 15.70, which deals with special treatment and accepting gifts—including an instance in which someone asked about accepting gifts or tickets from a zoning applicant. In one instance, a city employee asked Dr. Bill if it was ok to accept a restaurant host’s offer of a special table, saying she felt like a “rock star”: Dr. Bill explained that this was OK, since the table was also available to the public. Another instance showed that accepting a free dinner because of a city decision was a violation of the ethics ordinance.

At this point the prosecution stopped the tape and asked Shepherd if the subject of food came up again on the tape. She said it did, and Docherty played that portion of the tape. Ordinance 15.50, soliciting or accepting personal gifts, is invoked; an electrical inspector for the city asks if it’s ok to accept something to drink or something a company produces, such as a magnet. Dr. Bill explains that anything like food or drink should not be accepted, but anything of little or no value (such as a refrigerator magnet) would be ok. Dr. Bill cautions the inspector, “when in doubt, don’t accept it.”

The prosecution then pointed out a copy of the city’s ethics ordinance, attached to Exhibit 66. [I don’t believe we were shown this on the screen, but it’s available through the city’s website.]

Seventeenth witness for the prosecution: Timothy Bisswurm

Bisswurm explained that he is the FBI special agent assigned to public corruption and other fraud; he’s been involved in this investigation since the beginning. In response to questioning, Bisswurm explained that he met Carlson for the first time on May 3, 2005. David Espelund (Carlson’s foreman) called his office; Bisswurm interviewed him at Chicago Commons. At the time Espelund mentioned a friend, Carlson, who could provide information about government corruption. Bisswurm was asked about the FBI protocol following such a meeting; he explained that the FBI writes up a report after the interview called an FD302. He explained that he had reviewed that document.

He then said that Zimmermann’s name came up on May 3rd, when Espelund said Zimmermann was involved. On May 18th, he met with Agent Kukura; they wanted more detail about the issue. The next time they met with Carlson on Monday, May 23rd. This was the Monday following the Shriners’ meeting on May 20th, a Friday.

Docherty asked Agent Bisswurm if Carlson was a target of an investigation [the East bank] now, and he said no.

After May 23rd, Bisswurm said, the FBI started using Carlson in their investigation. They monitored Carlson’s phone calls; Carlson signed a consent form for the calls, and he was instructed in the procedure; an agent was with him each time he made a call to Zimmermann. If Zimmermann called Carlson, the latter was instructed to let voice mail pick up the calls if possible; then there would be time to record the follow-up call with the FBI present. For face-to-face meetings with Zimmermann an agent would “wire” Carlson in advance of the meeting, so the tape was running continuously during the meeting. After the meeting, the agents would meet Carlson, retrieve the equipment, and turn over the evidence.

Docherty then asked Bisswurm about the issue of “cousins” that came up during the conversation between Zimmermann and Carlson at the Black Forest on June 6, 2005. Zimmermann’s reference to cousins on this date gave the FBI the idea of having Carlson ask Zimmermann at the June 14th Baja meeting to define what the latter meant by cousins. They also instructed Carlson to ask Zimmermann at the August 3 meeting about the $5000 and to ask what Zimmermann had done in exchange for the money. Their instructions to Carlson were a list of three or four bullet points he should try to cover—no more detailed than that.

In response to questioning Bisswurm explained that Carlson had neither asked for nor received anything from the FBI. Bisswurm also said that the serial numbers on the money the FBI gave Carlson to distribute to Zimmermann had been copied.

Exhibits 56, 57, and 58 were presented; these were photocopies of the serial numbers printed on the money the FBI gave to Carlson to give to Zimmermann; in the left-hand corner is the date each was paid. Exhibit 56 contained the serial numbers of the money given to Zimmermann on June 14th; Exhibit 57 contained the serial numbers from August 15th; and Exhibit 58 contained the serial numbers from August 31, 2005.

In response to questioning, Bisswurm explained that the names on the four campaign envelopes given to Zimmermann at the light rail station on August 15th were names invented by the FBI; to Bisswurm’s knowledge, these are not real people. Since Zimmermann had referred to “cousins,” they chose Somali names.

Docherty then asked Bisswurm if the agents had interviewed Bruce Shoemaker, and he said yes, on October 19th, 2005. Docherty asked if Shoemaker had mentioned the $5000 gathered for FREE or the $1000; Bisswurm said he did not.

Docherty asked Bisswurm about the relationship between Zimmermann and Lynne Mayo. Exhibits 59 and 60 were presented; both are certified copies obtained by the FBI office (but not by the agents themselves). Exhibit 59 is a warranty deed for the property at 2420 17th Avenue South, dated December 1984, listing G.D. Zimmermann and Martha Lynne Mayo as the owners. Exhibit 60 is a birth certificate dated August 25, 1982; the parents are given as Martha Lynne Mayo and G.D. Zimmermann.

On September 8th, 2005, Zimmermann met with Bisswurm at around 12:30pm at the Chicago Commons sales office at 2401 Chicago Avenue South. The meeting was arranged by Carlson via phone calls; Zimmermann thought he would be meeting with Carlson and Mohammed Mohammed (the latter is a real person; he was never apprised of this meeting, since its real purpose was to interview Zimmermann). Bisswurm explained that the election primary took place a few days later, on September 13th.

Bisswurm explained that the video and audio recording from August 3rd showed the interior of Chicago Commons. Docherty asked why they chose Chicago Commons as the location; he said it was because there would be few distractions. Bisswurm pointed out that he had told Zimmermann at that meeting that the latter was free to leave. Both agents interviewed Zimmermann; they recorded the interview on three audio cassettes. These are admitted as Exhibit 55.

The court recessed until 10:35 or so.

Seventeenth audiotape (3 tapes): FBI interview with Zimmermann on September 8, 2005 at Chicago Commons (recorded with Agent Kukura and Agent Bisswurm)

The audiotapes were played for the jury; we hear a voice announce the date and time (September 8th, 2005, 11:53am); Docherty then turned off the tape and queued it to the point at which Zimmermann was arriving.

[Note: this was a very long tape, and I’m certain that I haven’t captured everything that was said. Please consult the tape or transcript for an accurate and complete account.]

Bisswurm introduces himself to Carlson (we are told this is in order to make it seem to Zimmermann that it was the first time they had met). He tells Zimmermann he is an FBI agent, and Zimmermann says he believes him, adding that Bisswurm “looked like FBI.” Bisswurm explains to Zimmermann that he did not have to talk to them; Zimmermann said he’d been dealing with them [FBI] for over 40 years [something was said about letters in here too, I think]. He tells Zimmermann he is not under arrest and can leave at any time (he points out the door to Zimmermann). He explains that the FBI is investigating political corruption, adding that the City Council is the focus. He tells Zimmermann that Mohammed Mohammed isn’t coming and explains that he had asked Carlson to arrange the meeting so they could meet alone and no one else would know. He offers Zimmermann refreshment and asks him if he needs to go to the bathroom before they get started. Zimmermann says he is fine.

Bisswurm plays the audiotape recording from the Black Forest Inn, and we hear Zimmermann’s voice say “Money, money, money.” Bisswurm then turns to Zimmermann and says, “What you heard is a little bit of a problem.” Bisswurm mentions that Carlson needed Zimmermann’s help with his rezoning application, and asks Zimmermann if as a Council Member he was in a position to help him. Zimmermann replies, “probably not.” Bisswurm explains that Zimmermann has a vote as a Council Member; he refers to Zimmermann’s legal bill of $90,000 for the redistricting lawsuit and mentions that Zimmermann had told Carlson the lawyers would likely accept a token $4,000-$5,000. Bisswurm asks him if he had received money from Carlson for that debt; Zimmermann says that he told Carlson that Carlson could send money to Leventhal on behalf of the other plaintiffs.

At this point, Bisswurm stops him and says he doesn’t want Zimmermann to get in trouble. He explains that they have boxes of tape recordings of exactly what Zimmermann has said. He tells Zimmermann, “What I hear on this tape is not what you just told me. Be truthful.” Zimmermann admits that he got money from Carlson for his campaign--$1200 in campaign envelopes containing the names of people Carlson told him he got the money from; Zimmermann says they were not necessarily real people. Bisswurm asks him if they could be cousins, and Zimmermann says, “Well, that’s what he said.” He tells the FBI he kept the money and that it’s “in a drawer back home.”

At this point, the FBI plays more of the tapes, explaining that the “topic is cousins,” defined as straw individuals. Bisswurm says, “You’re bringing up cousins…did you ever describe how to donate money to someone in a cousin’s name?” Zimmermann says he told Carlson if he had a friend, or cousin, or associate, he “could have them write a check,” adding, “I don’t like cash, it’s nasty.”

The FBI then addresses the topic of the redistricting bill. Zimmermann says he told Carlson, “if you want to help them with that, whatever…” The FBI asks Zimmermann for his interpretation of help. [I think here the FBI brought up the issue of family donations again.] Zimmermann says he told Carlson, “however you work your internal finances, I don’t know.” The FBI then explains to Zimmermann that if Carlson were to give the money to others to give to Zimmermann, he’d be disguising campaign contributions. Zimmermann says, “if it’s illegal, then I wouldn’t support it.” When the FBI presses him on this point, Zimmermann says something about getting other family members to donate, saying “it’s one of the options.” Bisswurm responds by saying, “It’s [giving money to family members so they can donate in their name] illegal, and I think you know that. This is your second campaign, you’d be familiar with campaign laws—wouldn’t you say that’s clearly illegal?” Zimmermann assents.

The FBI plays another tape for Zimmermann and asks whether Zimmermann had told Carlson to give money to the attorney for the redistricting suit. Zimmermann says, “Coming to the lawyer, it’s cleaner.” Bisswurm asks him why he thinks Carlson was offering to donate and Zimmermann replies, “he thinks I’m a good member on Council and wants me to stay there.” The FBI explains that Carlson has described in detail what he expects for that $5000. Zimmermann says, “no, he says what he needs, wants to change a certain amount of office space to retail. We voted, it didn’t pass, and I don’t think it’s going to [happen?].” The FBI asks him, “Is Carlson so kind-hearted a developer that he just wants to donate to the campaign?” Zimmermann explains that it’s done all the time, that people even donate to “both sides” of the political spectrum.

The FBI then explains that in a case such as the one Zimmermann mentioned, the money is disclosed. He explains that he’s talking about the $5000 Carlson wanted to donate to the lawsuit. He tells Zimmermann he’s wondering why Carlson would do that. Zimmermann says Carlson said he’d contribute [to the redistricting suit?] but hasn’t. Bisswurm reminds Zimmermann that he’s described a token amount to Carlson on tape. Zimmermann says he gave Carlson Larry Leventhal’s name and address. Zimmermann says he’s never seen the $5000; he says Carlson gave him $1200, adding that it’s still in the campaign envelopes; he explains that he did nothing with it because “it didn’t feel good, I had the sense these were not real people.”

Bisswurm asks him why he didn’t return the money. Zimmermann says he wanted to “sit on it.” The FBI then asks him if he has received any other cash. Zimmermann says no, only the four envelopes containing $1200. Bisswurm asks, “What if I show you?” and Zimmermann says, “let’s see it.” Bisswurm replies, “put your money where your mouth is,” and plays another tape for him: it is a portion of the videotape of the June 14th meeting at the Baja when Carlson handed Zimmermann the envelope with $5000.

Bisswurm says, “we were there, we’re not you. I still want from you the honest truth, and I’m not getting it. So far, you’ve not been that honest.” Zimmermann retorts, “What else you got?” Bisswurm tells him, “This is a very important day for you. You’ve got a big decision to make; you can tell me, this is voluntary. We aren’t going to arrest you today, no matter what. Want me to show you another tape?” Zimmermann says “sure.”

The FBI plays more of the tape from the Baja: we hear Zimmermann tell Carlson to give money to his family members so they can write a check; we also hear the portion about giving cash, where Zimmermann says “nobody knows, nobody cares,” as well as the part where he advises Carlson to give people $350 and have them write Zimmermann a check for $300. The FBI agent again urges Zimmermann to be honest with them.

Zimmermann acknowledges that he received $1200 in envelopes and says it’s still in a drawer at his home. He then admits he also received $5000 in cash for the lawsuit and says it too is at home in his office desk, explaining that he’s in the process of forwarding the money to the lawyer [Leventhal]. He says Carlson “chose to pay cash, I don’t know the reason.” Zimmermann then explains that he had argued for Carlson’s rezoning before the committee, but it didn’t pass; he says it didn’t pass Zoning and Planning, either, and says he didn’t talk to anyone behind the scenes about it. Agent Bisswurm reminds Zimmermann of the June 13th committee meeting and points out to Zimmermann that there was no discussion [about the zoning issue] by him at that meeting.

Bisswurm then tells Zimmermann he has been courteous to him, adding that he respects him as a Council Member and would like the same courtesy. He says Zimmermann has been giving them the “runaround”: first Zimmermann said there was no money, then he admitted to the $5000. He reminds Zimmermann of the Black Forest tape and the “money, money, money” comment. Zimmermann says the event was a fundraiser. Bisswurm says Zimmermann could have reminded Carlson of the $300 campaign limit and been “squeaky clean,” but instead Zimmermann brought up the $5000. Zimmermann explains that Carlson was “at his limit, so the only thing was the redistricting lawsuit.”

The FBI asks him what he had planned to do for Carlson in exchange for the money. Zimmermann says, “nothing that I wouldn’t do for another developer or anyone else.” Bisswurm asks him, “what would you have done if he had given you no money?” Zimmermann replies, “same thing.” Zimmermann then asks Bisswurm, “So you’re saying there’s no way to ask people to help me?” and he replies, “not if they have business with the city. You disclose it [donations] to the full Council, and say that it’s a conflict. Was that done here?” Zimmermann says “no, not to the letter.” Zimmermann explains that he thought his vote on Carlson’s issue was correct for the city. The FBI agent explains that the issue is whether he had received something of value from someone doing business with the city. Zimmermann then refers to the redistricting lawsuit and 20 other people involved. He says, “so I can’t ask for help with the lawsuit?” and Bisswurm says he would have to disclose it.

Bisswurm then referred to the four envelopes and Zimmermann describing to Carlson how to make a phony donation. Zimmermann says the names seemed phony to him and that was why he was hanging onto them. Bisswurm explains that Carlson was just doing what Zimmermann had asked him to do. Zimmermann replies, “apparently.”

Bisswurm then asks if the $5000 that was given directly to Zimmermann [not to the lawyer] is in his drawer, “all $5000.” Zimmermann says “correct.” Bisswurm says, “but you’re sitting on the $1200.” Zimmermann replies “yes, if it’s not legitimate.” Bisswurm asks him if there are any other payments he wants to tell him about; for awhile, Zimmermann answers no. Later, Zimmermann explains that there’s another “bundle” in an envelope with no names, so he says he couldn’t do anything with that money. Bisswurm asks him how much, and Zimmermann initially says he’s not sure; a little later, it becomes clear that there is $1000 in a green envelope. Zimmermann explains that Carlson was trying to get some money into the campaign and says Carlson was going to give him a name [of the donor] later. Zimmermann says the money can’t be used [by the campaign] “until we know who it’s from.” The FBI asks him why he didn’t give the money back to Carlson, and asked what else Zimmermann was doing for him. Zimmermann explains that he’s been trying to help Carlson find a location for a new Somali market.

Court recessed for a short break.

The tape is continued once the jury has returned. We hear the FBI ask Zimmermann about favoritism and money being used to influence him. Bisswurm says, “You’ve already accepted $7200 without blinking an eye. So you’re telling me another $50,000, you’d refuse that?” Zimmermann explains that he had plans for that money, that it was for the lawsuit and the campaign. The FBI agent reminds him of his words on the tape: Zimmermann and Carlson have discussed votes, support, and Carlson’s words, “I’ll take care of you.” Zimmermann says that’s not exactly how it was. Bisswurm asks him if other developers “take care of your bills,” and Zimmermann says no.

The FBI explains that what Zimmermann has done is illegal, and Zimmermann disagrees, saying the money was part of a fund to pay off the redistricting debt, and that it’s not illegal. Agent Bisswurm replies that it is, because Carlson had business before the city. Bisswurm then asks him if he had talked to anyone else about this project. Zimmermann says, “did I? I don’t know.” Bisswurm replies, “All I want is for you to be honest. A month or two ago, you spoke to Orange…” Zimmermann explains that Michael [Orange] said the zoning was better the way it is, explaining that he often consults staff. He says he doesn’t know if anyone else researched the issue. Bisswurm then asks, “you don’t recall talking to Lilligren and Schiff about this project?” Zimmermann says he doesn’t know; he added that “the developer wanted more retail; it was clear nothing moved on it, and I explore issues like this all the time.” A little later he says he doesn’t know if Natalie [Collins] did anything on it. (When asked who Natalie Collins was, Zimmermann explained that she was his policy “manager” and that “when something is too tough for me, she figures it out.”)

When Bisswurm asks him again about the $5000 and whether Zimmermann thought it was illegal, he again insisted it was fine. He explains that he took the $1200 for his campaign, but left it alone because “I thought I’d figure it out when I had a little more time.” The FBI asks him if he took money in exchange for Carlson’s expectation of help with zoning. Zimmermann explains that when he looks at zoning issues, he looks at criteria, such as whether it’s consistent. He says, “if the project makes sense, I support it.” He says he looks at whether it’s a good project and the area needs it. Bisswurm appears to ask him if he voted in Carlson’s favor in this project; Zimmermann responded, “You say I didn’t vote to change this to retail?”

Bisswurm goes on to explain that it appears Zimmermann did discuss the issue with Schiff and Lilligren. He then goes back to the issue of the $1200 and refers to the tape. He says, “it’s pretty clear when you accept that money, it’s not a good campaign contribution, and he [Carlson] tells you that.” Zimmermann explains that that’s why he didn’t do anything with it. The FBI then says, “you accepted that money knowing, explaining how to make illegal contributions.” Zimmermann again says relatives do that, “but he came back with envelopes that looked bogus.” The FBI reminds him again that he has told Carlson to give people $350 and have them write a check to Zimmermann’s campaign for $300; in fact, he has “described it in detail, on tape. You knew it was illegal when you accepted them after describing to Gary how it’s done.”

Bisswurm follows up on this by saying, “There they sit, all $1200, all $5000?” Zimmermann explains that the $1200 is still there, and that there is $5000 that “I have to send to the lawyer.” The FBI asks him what happened to the $5000 Carlson gave him. Zimmermann explains that it’s been loaned or spent, explaining “money in, money out.” He says he didn’t want to send $5000 cash in the mail. The FBI again asks where the money is. Zimmermann then says he used it to pay other bills, “nothing specific, until I could get around to writing a check.” He explains that he left the money in his drawer, and now he’s in the process of paying the [redistricting] bill. The FBI asks him again, “the $5000 is gone? Where did it go?” Zimmermann says he spent it on various things, explaining that he’s a business person and as such he shuffles money: “money comes in, and money goes out.” He says he used the cash to pay bills.

The FBI asks if the bills were for the campaign, and Zimmermann says no, adding “that money is so I can write a check to the lawyer.” The FBI asks if he means the actual cash Carlson had given him. Zimmermann says no, saying he spent the $5000 in cash on personal bills. He says “it’s hung up in personal accounts…rent for properties, etc. I have money in my account to pay a check.” Bisswurm says “so basically you spent it but have money in your account to write a check.” Zimmermann replies “exactly,” saying something like there not being a direct link, that the money gets used up to pay bills, and that money comes in different forms.

Bisswurm asks him about the $1200 in cash. Zimmermann says the $5000 in cash is gone, but the $1200 is still sitting there [in his desk at home]. Zimmermann says he never told Leventhal about this exact contribution [the $5000] but he told him “one day in late June [that] I had some guys lined up to make a contribution. I told Leventhal I had some money…from time to time we’d talk on the phone, he’s not really pressing us…three or four weeks ago I spoke to him and said I had some money for him. No one but Carlson that I know of…there are 13 other plaintiffs, and I’m trying to do my share.”

Agent Bisswurm then says “so you’re saying the same $1000 is still sitting, that you didn’t use it to pay bills.” Zimmermann explains that it’s in his desk—not in a campaign office, but in the desk he uses for his campaign, adding that he doesn’t have the luxury of different offices.

The FBI then asks Zimmermann about the properties he purchased recently, asking him where the money came from. Zimmermann explains that it’s “leveraged on mortgages,” explaining that he refinanced the original property at 24th and 17th to get money for the down payment on Grand Avenue (he doesn’t know the exact amount)…Agent Bisswurm asks him about the house on Clinton, and Zimmermann says, “Whatever the broker figured out,” explaining that she mortgage broker was a friend of his wife’s.

Bisswurm then asks if there are no other sources of funds, such as an inheritance, adding that Zimmermann’s wife works at home. He says it’s all due to equity in the house on 17th.

The agent then asks Zimmermann about how the campaign finances are handled. Zimmermann explains that the treasurer, Jerry Dastych, should have all the contributions; Zimmermann says he send him the money occasionally but he generally has nothing to do with the campaign finances. He says people generally donate by writing checks; he explains that to cover expenses, he has one checkbook and Dastych has the other.

Agent Bisswurm asks him about the account at US Bank; Zimmermann says he doesn’t know how Dastych handles that account, but he knows Dastych filed a report the previous Tuesday reporting all loans, outstanding debts, etc. Zimmermann explains that he never keeps campaign contributions without forwarding them to Dastych, saying cash almost never comes in except at the occasional fundraiser; he asks instead for checks.

Bisswurm asks if Jerry would question it when he got cash. Zimmermann says it’s sometimes put into the pot at fundraisers. The FBI then asks him if he’s ever been given $300 in cash that he’s forwarded to Dastych; Zimmermann said he could have been, but it would have been very unusual. In response to questioning, Zimmermann also says he doesn’t know what Dastych would think unusual. The FBI asks if Jerry would be likely to question the $1200 Zimmermann had received in cash, and Zimmermann says he didn’t feel “those were real people on there” [referring to the fake “Somali” names on the four envelopes]. The FBI suggests the real reason is that he was afraid he’d get caught, then asks him if he had accepted the $1000 without any name on the envelope. Zimmermann says yes. Bisswurm suggests to Zimmermann that it’s clear that Carlson handed the money to Zimmermann to get the Somali “thing going on, to which you agreed. You said ‘yes.’” The agent then reminds Zimmermann to tell the truth, saying this is not a decision he can sit on, adding that he doesn’t think Zimmermann has been totally honest with them. He then says he can show Zimmermann more tapes.

Agent Bisswurm shows him the videotape from Zimmermann’s house, with Zimmermann accepting $1000 in cash. He explains that the tape shows that the “money was for influence at City Council, your influence,” and Zimmermann answers, “that’s what you say.” Bisswurm says Zimmermann believes it’s convenient to walk away from his words, but he believes Zimmermann is not giving them 100% of the truth. He suggests the developer was paying Zimmermann in exchange for his influence at Council. Zimmermann explains that’s why anyone gives campaign donations, saying he had told Carlson to write a check directly to the attorney, but Carlson “chose a different route.”

The FBI reminds Zimmermann that he has used that money, that it never made it to the attorney. Bisswurm asks him, “how many times do you need to hear that he needs your support and vote?” Again he explains to Zimmermann that the contributions are illegal, and that such practices could “corrupt the whole government.” Zimmermann says “it could…”

Bisswurm tells Zimmermann there’s a “hurdle” he’s still not getting over, saying that today Zimmermann needs to move forward. Zimmermann continues to insist that the money was for the attorney. The FBI then asks about the $1200 payment. Zimmermann says it was more contributions, saying he told Carlson to get other people around him to contribute, so he gave him the envelopes and “that was that.” He says the money was for the campaign fund, not for future job sites, and not for city business. Bisswurm refers to the made-up names and Zimmermann’s advice to give cash because “nobody knows, nobody cares.” He asks him, “How will that play before the jury?” and Zimmermann replies, “not well.”

Zimmermann insists he doesn’t know what Carlson’s motivation was for donating; he adds “I vote on things the way they appear to me.” Bisswurm says Carlson wanted his support on zoning for the Somali mall. Zimmermann says, “no, that’s not what that $1000 was for.” The agent asks, “not for support or influence?” and Zimmermann replies, “absolutely not.” Bisswurm refers to Zimmermann’s help with zoning for Chicago Commons and Zimmermann corrects him, saying, “not help, not from my point of view.” The FBI then asks, “why would he do that?” and Zimmermann says, “I don’t know. He’s a developer, they have money.”

Bisswurm then points out that the money intended for the redistricting suit ultimately benefits Zimmermann, too; he says, “it’s your lawsuit, so it’s your personal bills that get paid.” Zimmermann says there are lots of similar instances “out there.” Bisswurm retorts, “name one,” but Zimmermann says he can’t come up with a “concrete example.” Again the FBI asks “why should anyone contribute [to the lawsuit]?” and Zimmermann says because “they think it’s fair, since the bill is still out there to be paid.”

Court recessed for lunch until 1:30.

After lunch the prosecution continued its questioning of Agent Bisswurm. In response to questioning, Bisswurm explained that repetitive portions of the tape we just heard had been edited out, but the full and unedited version was supplied to the defense. He said a federal search warrant of Zimmermann’s home at 2200 Clinton was served on September 8, 2005. He explained that money was indeed found in the desk drawer: $1200 cash in four envelopes (Exhibits 34-37). He said all $1200 was there, but there was no trace of the $5000 or the original $1000. Docherty asked him is any of the original $100 bills (other than the $1200 in four campaign envelopes) were found in the house, and he said no. He said Zimmermann was asked where the $1000 was and he replied “all over the place.”

The defense attorney began his cross-examination of Agent Bisswurm. Bisswurm explained that May 3rd, 2005 was the first time Carlson had met with the other FBI agent; it was the other agent who prepared the report [I didn’t get a name here]. The defense referred to page 4 of this report—specifically, two paragraphs on page 1 that discuss people who were dealing with Zimmermann’s mortgage issues in the past. The report includes things the agent believed they were doing right or wrong. Page 3 includes information about Azzam Sabri’s business and people Carlson thought “might be on the take.” It includes someone accused of “dummying up” tax reports and committing fraud because of errors. Zimmermann is mentioned at the bottom of page 2 only: he is not in the list of those of Arab descent nor is he a business partner (he’s listed in only two places). Apparently Carlson’s intimation that Zimmermann had received marijuana in payoffs is treated by the agent as an error in the report. [If I remember correctly, Scott asked if Carlson had been instructed to “include pot” in his payoffs to Zimmermann, and Bisswurm replied no.]

Scott then referred to May 3rd and May 18th, asking if they told Carlson the mortgage stuff was too old to prosecute (i.e., the statute of limitations was up). The agent said no. The defense reminded Bisswurm that if the crime occurred in the last 10 years, it’s still within the statute of limitations.

In response to questioning about what the FBI told Carlson to say, Bisswurm explained that they liked to have some control over cooperative witnesses like Carlson, so they would prep him by giving him a checklist of things they wanted him to accomplish at each meeting in order to make their case. If Carlson didn’t accomplish an item, it was added to his list for the next time.

Scott then asked him about the Somali mall scenario. Bisswurm explained that it was originally Zimmermann’s idea, but they re-introduced it after the zoning issue was done (Bisswurm said it fit with other ideas). He said people of Somali descent were never involved.

Scott then brought up the September 8th meeting at Chicago Commons with the FBI, saying it was supposedly set up for Zimmermann to meet Mohammed Mohammed about the Roof Depot site; they also planned to organize a larger meeting with 100 merchants. Bisswurm explained that he was wearing a “wire” but was not using a tape recorder that day; the agents did not tell Zimmermann they were recording. The tape of that meeting was originally about two and a half hours long, edited to about one hour and 45 minutes; Bisswurm said they edited spots where they’d do most of the talking and get an occasional “uh huh” out of Zimmermann. He said Zimmermann went “back and forth” during the interview; there was some disagreement with the agents, and he got more comfortable disagreeing with them as the interview wore on.

Bisswurm explained that the search of Zimmermann’s house occurred the same day as the interview; he went there following the meeting at Chicago Commons, after he had made some phone calls. The search warrant had been prepared in advance, but serving it depended on Zimmermann’s cooperation. Although Zimmermann was outside the house after the warrant was served, they asked him to come inside and show them where to find things. (There were no additional questions from the defense.)

Docherty decided to ask Bisswurm a few more questions before he left the stand. He began with a question about 302, to which Bisswurm assented [I have no idea what this was about]. In response to questioning, Bisswurm explained that Carlson said he had cooperated with the government because of all the corruption at City Hall.

The prosecution rested.

Court recessed until almost 2:00.

Before the jury returned, the defense presented a motion to acquit on all four counts based on Rule 29. Scott explained that the series of emails (October 18-19, 2004) involving PRG did not show solicitation or acceptance of anything of value, so there was insufficient evidence; Zimmermann never said “I won’t do something unless you do something for me.” On the second count, accepting $5000, the government had presented no evidence that anything of value was exchanged; Scott said the issues were separate and couldn’t be tied to Chicago Commons. He said regarding counts 3 and 4, the prosecution hadn’t demonstrated that the actions by City Council had any value. After watching the tapes, he said it wasn’t clear that Carlson was giving money in return for official actions (he hinted it might be true in count 1).

For his part, Docherty explained that the defendant was a member of City Council; Minneapolis had received at least $10,000 in federal money, so this was a federal case. He said the issue was whether the defendant had received something of value in exchange for city work, and he had—the cash plus the value of the retaining wall. By agreeing to accept the money, Zimmermann was connecting a transaction with city business. He argued the retaining wall was analogous to money received in exchange for signing Certificates of Completion. He said the value here is the $180,000 or so each townhome would sell for, since they couldn’t be occupied without the Certificates of Completion. He said something about Scott’s reference to quid pro quo and 666, which he said could by violated by taking a reward. [obviously my notes aren’t clear here.] The argument that it’s OK if they accept money even if they had planned to do something anyway becomes a “reward”—in this case, for signing off on the Certificates. He brought up the fact that there was evidence from only one email that Zimmermann was acting as Mayo’s agent—he attended no meetings, etc. He said the context of the request within the email needed to be considered; he said it wasn’t stretching to say this is solicitation for at minimum a gratuity for signing the Certificates. Regarding the other counts, he said it wasn’t appropriate to consider the value of the (fake) Somali mall; he said instead the value should be connected to Chicago Commons, since its survival depended on the new Somali mall as a “relief valve”—so the value of $200,000 for each condo at Chicago Commons should be considered. He urged the judge to deny the prosecution’s request for acquittal. [Cautionary note from Liz: I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not certain I’ve accurately captured the logic of this exchange.]

The judge ruled to deny rule 29 and said she would continue to think about count 4.

Once the jury returned, the defense called its witnesses.

First witness for the defense: David Luce

Luce explained that he lives in Minneapolis and knows Zimmermann; he was a Green Party supporter and a Parks Board candidate in 1997 when Zimmermann was an elected member of the Parks Board. In response to Scott’s question Luce said he attended the Black Forest fundraiser for Zimmermann on June 6, 2005. He had received the pink invitation in the mail; it was submitted as Defense Exhibit 38. (The words “Dean Zimmermann’s 4th Annual 60th Birthday Fundraiser” were pointed out on the screen as the exhibit was shown.) He said 40-50 people had attended the event, held in the banquet room and billed as a “fun-raiser.” He said Zimmermann had addressed the crowd (standing on a chair); someone in the crowd had asked him, “What can we do for you?” and Zimmermann had responded, “money, money, money.” Luce said the phrase was an “ongoing kind of thing.”

Docherty then introduced himself to Luce, explaining that they had not met previously. He asked Luce if he was part of the conversation with Carlson, and Luce said no.

Second witness for the defense: Lara Merrill

Merrill explained that she had known the defendant since March 2005; she was a supporter and had worked on Zimmermann’s 2005 campaign. She too was present at the June 6, 2005 fundraiser at the Black Forest; she attended as both a supporter and a volunteer. Merrill explained that Zimmermann addressed the crowd that night and used the slogan “money, money, money” and asked for the attendees’ support. She said the phrase was not exactly planned in advance as a slogan but it had caught on. Someone in the crowd asked Zimmermann what he needed and he had replied, “money, money, money.” She said everyone laughed.

Docherty then cross-examined the witness, introducing himself to her first. As with the first witness, Docherty explained to the jury that he had not previously met Merrill. He asked her what she was doing on the campaign and she said she had gone door to door. He asked if volunteers were getting $100 each from outside the campaign and she said no. He asked her if she was part of the Carlson conversation and she said no again.

Third witness for the defense: Cami Jo Freeman Waag

In response to Scott’s questions Waag explained that she was a property owner on Cedar; she owns Whiskey Junction, which she explained used to be in the 6th Ward but wasn’t after redistricting. She owned the bar for two years (the Joint and the Cabooze are in the same area). She explained that the Hiawatha light rail is right there, nearby, so bar-hoppers will get off light rail and patronize her establishment.

Scott asked her what effect light rail had had on her parking, and she said “horrible.” She said that as early as 7:00am, people will park by the bars and ride light rail. Scott asked her if she and other bar owners had contacted their Council Members, and she said yes, adding that she had worked with Zimmermann on several occasions as well as with others at parking and zoning. She said Zimmermann was easy to approach (she explained that she was from a small town); he had met with her, they had lunch, and he was very helpful and very fair. In response to questioning, she said Zimmermann was very insistent on paying for his own lunch. She was impressed with his fairness, the fact that he was riding a bicycle, and found him to be comforting. She said she had a cousin on City Council, Scott Benson, who had referred her to Zimmermann. Scott asked her if Zimmermann had asked her for money in exchange for his help, and she said no.

Docherty then asked Waag if she was present at any of the meetings at issue: the Baja on June 14th, Chicago Commons on August 3rd, the Franklin light rail station on August 15th, or Zimmermann’s home on August 31st; she said no. He then said, “so the central allegations of this case you have no knowledge of?” and she said no.

Fourth witness for the defense: Deanna Foster

Scott began by asking Foster how she got involved with Zimmermann; she explained that she worked for Hope Community, Inc. and had been involved with the organization for 20 of the 30 years of its existence. She explained that it used to be an emergency shelter for women and children; her background is in nonprofit management and business education. She said Hope has expanded: it now provides and develops affordable rental housing, community engagement work, and strengthens residents’ participation in the community. She said they raise money through grants. They’re also involved in real estate, building a big property at Franklin and Portland (41 housing units, a grocery, and a deli. The larger development is Franklin Gateway, with 250 housing units; she said it is almost finished, in phase 2 of 4).

Scott asked if she works closely with city government, and she said yes. He asked if the city bureaucracy was complicated, and she said extremely. He asked her if she had sought the help of Council Members, and she said yes, but mostly she kept in touch with them in case she needed them to run interference on a project. Scott asked if she had worked with Zimmermann as a Council Member, and she said yes. He then asked her about the nature of Zimmermann’s help and attitude, and she said she apprised him of some zoning issues; they needed to move a billboard off a corner, and Zimmermann was very attentive and easy to work with. Scott asked if she had success in building what she wanted, and she said she defined success as not having stoppages—she said the City didn’t always help, but the goal was to keep them from hindering. She said Zimmermann was overly generous about wanting to help, but he didn’t always have the capacity to help much as one person. She said he always asked what he could do to help and was open to everyone.

Court recessed until almost 3:20

Fifth witness for the defense: Larry Leventhal

Scott began by apologizing for the delay.

In response to questioning, Leventhal said he is a St. Paul attorney, working in Minneapolis until about a year ago. He explained that he has been in practice since 1967 in MN. He explained that many of his clients are political leftists and he often serves those who cannot pay his full rates (he represents American Indians and American Indian tribes; he sometimes works on a pro bono or sliding fee basis). Scott asked Leventhal if he nurtured young lawyers who work for little money, and he said yes. He also said he had brought the redistricting suit on behalf of a number of people, explaining that redistricting that had been done was inconsistent with the law. He said they used devices to provide competition among Green Party Council members, and the dividing lines were unfair to racial minorities. He explained that Judge Tunheim was the judge, and there were 15 plaintiffs (one dropped out). He said the redistricting affected Natalie Johnson-Lee and Dean Zimmermann, both Green Party elected officials who were plaintiffs in the suit. He said there were 13 others, divided across the wards.

Leventhal explained that there were three other lawyers involved in the suit: Michael Hager, Randy Morris, and Jordan Kushner. He said they needed a funding mechanism to pay for the suit, so they started FREE in order to fundraise, to pay the costs associated with the trial; he said the lawyers agreed to limit the legal fees to what the group could fundraise (he said he believed they were unlikely to raise the full funds). Costs involved were for a court reporter for depositions, costs for serving papers, expert witnesses, doing visual work, etc. He said there were attorneys’ fees as well as fees for secretaries and law clerks. He said they are unable to waive costs: he said plaintiffs were still responsible for those.

Leventhal said the plaintiffs lost the court case and decided to appeal; he also represented the plaintiffs in the appeal. The case ended in 2005; by the summer of 2005 it was under appeal, and he was actively involved in representation. He said he communicated with the plaintiffs, adding Zimmermann took on a larger fundraising role than most, as did Shoemaker. He said they were considerably behind in paying the bills in summer 2005. He said he spoke by phone with Zimmermann about the case in early summer or late spring and they had a meeting. He said in June or July 2005, they discussed funds for the case; during one phone call, Zimmermann had said he was able to raise some money, Leventhal thought it was around $5000, and Zimmermann thought the money should be kept to pay costs. He said they discussed whether individuals could be liable fore the costs, and Leventhal said he and Hager thought so. (He said attorneys’ fees couldn’t be charged back to individuals, but other costs could.) If they raised more than enough money to cover costs, money would go to pay lawyers’ fees.

The defense asked Leventhal if FREE was active and ongoing in the summer of 2005, and he said as an organization, FREE was not active. He explained that they had lost their tax-exempt status with the Urban Coalition: the latter had had financial problems and largely went out of business. Leventhal said he was hoping to receive a portion of that money [it sounded like this was the money Zimmermann had mentioned by phone] in the future, but he didn’t expect it at that time, so he didn’t ask Zimmermann to send him money to put in trust. Scott asked if he had received checks from individual plaintiffs for some of the costs, and he said yes. (He said an example of a cost might be surveys used to show the shape of the district.) When asked if he had ever returned a check and said it should be sent directly to a vendor, he said yes, in about 2003.

Docherty then began his cross-examination of Leventhal. He said in summer of 2005 the redistricting case was on appeal; oral arguments were heard on September 12. After that, the decision was made; if the city prevailed, they could have asked for costs. Leventhal explained that at that point, the issue of costs was put off for the future. When asked if he was aware that Zimmermann had told the FBI on September 8th that he was sending Leventhal a check, Leventhal said he was aware of the allegation. Zimmermann had told him that because of costs, they were going to hang onto this money. Leventhal said he was pleased money had been raised, and he didn’t object to Zimmermann hanging onto it. Docherty then asked him if he had said Zimmermann could spend the money on household funds, saying “it wasn’t his money, was it?” Leventhal said no. Docherty asked if they were still keeping up with bookkeeping, in part to “keep a fire under them to raise money.” Leventhal said yes.

At this point Exhibit 11 was presented: it is a bill from Leventhal dated April 4th (Docherty pointed out it preceded his conversation with Zimmermann). The net total listed is around $101,000. The August 28th bill shows $101,753.36. Docherty pointed out that it was the same amount, even though he knew Zimmermann had collected $5000. Leventhal acknowledged that was true. The September 6, 2003 bill was also shown; it listed the same net total.

Leventhal explained that bills continued to be sent out; he said they stopped tabulating costs at some point but kept sending the bills. He said a portion of his conversation with Zimmermann was about costs; he said Zimmermann did mention a contribution, but he was not specific about who it was from.

Sixth witness for the defense: William Tilton

Like the others, Tilton began his testimony by establishing his credentials: he has been a civil litigator and trial attorney for 29 years. Tilton has been involved with the Mississippi Whitewater Park Development Corp, created 10 years ago (they’re whitewater paddlers who created a citizens’ group lobbying to recreate the rapids). He said his group has been trying to make that a reality along the side of the Mississippi River near Pillsbury Mill. He said they have raised almost $5 million, mostly federal and some state.

In response to questions from Scott, Tilton explained that it is essential to get city support as well as the support of neighborhood groups along the river. He said Zimmermann helped; as a member of the Parks Board, his support was important. He said he had known Zimmermann already, as a leader in the peace and justice movement, an early member of the civil rights movement, the co-op movement, and respected him as a leader. He said their first meeting was at a Lake Street pizza parlor; Zimmermann had “asked all the right questions,” and once he understood the project, he helped as a sponsor on the Park Board and continued to help on City Council. He said Zimmermann was not the most organized person, but he was always available. He said Zimmermann never asked for anything in return and insisted on paying for his own pizza.

Court recessed until 9:30 Monday, August 7, 2006

No comments: