Zimmermann admits lying to FBI about moneyby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Closing arguments in the Dean Zimmermann corruption trial begin Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court. The case will likely go to the jury later in the day. Testimony wrapped up in the trial Tuesday with some dramatic testimony from Zimmerman, who took the stand in his own defense.
Under questioning by the prosecutor, Zimmermann admitted that he lied to FBI agents when they interrogated him last year about money he'd received from a developer. The former Minneapolis city council-member is facing four bribery counts and possible jail time if he's convicted.
Minneapolis, Minn. — During the trial prosecutors have been trying to prove that in 2005, Zimmermann engaged in a money-for-political-favors relationship with real estate developer Gary Carlson. Carlson was building a $20 million condominium development in a troubled Minneapolis neighborhood, and asked for Zimmermann's help to make it more appealing to prospective buyers.
Carlson wanted more retail space in the building, but couldn't provide it under its current zoning. So he asked Zimmermann to help him push through a rezoning request. But the rezoning effort failed and Carlson pursued Zimmermann's help with another development project.
The FBI outfitted Carlson with a hidden video camera to tape meetings with Zimmermann. The FBI also audiotaped their phone conversations. The video captured three meetings where more than $7,000 in cash was given to Zimmermann.
Zimmermann testified that there was no connection between the money Carlson gave him and the duties he performed as a councilmember. He says he believed Carlson was making about $2,200 in campaign contributions and about $5,000 in charitable donations to a nonprofit group collecting money to pay for a lawsuit.
Zimmermann says he agreed to help Carlson before Carlson offered to donate money to his campaign.
During the trial, the government played jurors a 90-minute audio recording of FBI agents interrogating Zimmermann in September 2005. Zimmermann, who wasn't told he was being recorded, first denied that he had accepted some money from Carlson. But he later admitted taking the money after being shown the videos.
On Tuesday, Zimmermann testified that he panicked under questioning by FBI agents and didn't tell the truth. He also acknowledged he took the cash at a time when he had accumulated nearly $35,000 in credit card debt.
The defense also entered some last-minute evidence on Tuesday.
Zimmermann says he found a credit card check that he'd written out for $5,000 to the nonprofit group that was collecting money to help pay for the redistricting lawsuit. The check was dated July 19, 2005, a month after Zimmermann had accepted the cash from Carlson.
Zimmermann says he'd also tried to give that check to a person who was collecting money for the lawsuit, but the man wouldn't take it because the group's bank account closed and they didn't have anywhere to put it.
The government also tried to prove that Zimmermann tried to get a nonprofit group to build a retaining wall around one side of some property owned by his former girlfriend. The woman's house was right next to an alley that served as an entrance to the development that was completed by the group.
Zimmermann had remarked to a representative of the group that the alley looked "ratty" and would look better with a retaining wall. When the group said they couldn't afford to build it, Zimmermann offered to complete it himself with some of the leftover bricks from the construction site. Zimmermann makes his living as a handyman.
The jury is expected to begin its deliberations Wednesday afternoon.
- Morning Edition, 08/09/2006, 7:55 a.m.