Day Two of the bribery trial of former Minneapolis City Council member Dean Zimmermann featured attempts to unravel the mystery of the retaining wall and testimony from developer Gary Carlson.
Second witness for the prosecution: Kathryn Wetzel-Mastel
The trial started promptly at 9:30 Tuesday as the defense attorney (Dan Scott) resumed his cross-examination of Kathryn Wetzel-Mastel, a project manager for Powderhorn Residents Group (PRG). Scott showed Wetzel-Mastel two exhibits, both photos of 17th Avenue South, and asked her to identify three homes: a property owned by Zimmermann’s ex-partner, Lynne Mayo; Mayo’s home; and Zimmermann’s house. She did so, explaining in the process that she may have misidentified the homes behind the trees in the photos on Monday. In response to Scott’s questions, Wetzel-Mastel explained that in her role as project manager at PRG she served as the primary contact for neighborhood groups, a role that could sometimes be complicated, with lots of voices at the table. She indicated it was important to have neighborhood groups on her side and present “a united front before the city.”
During Phase 1 of Franklin Station, Wetzel-Mastel was responsible for acquiring properties and for determining which ones could be acquired. Scott presented Exhibits 18, 25, 22A, and 22, all maps of 17th Avenue and 24th. Street. One showed the landscaping behind the townhomes (15 foot setback). The entrance to the back of the buildings was the east-west alley. As part of the project, PRG eliminated one of the alleys; the residents of Franklin Station townhomes then had two entrances into their property: one on 17th. Avenue and another on 24th.
Scott asked Wetzel-Mastel whether she was involved in negotiations to purchase the property on the corner, at 2410 17th. Avenue South (Parcel B on the maps). She said no, but indicated the negotiations took place during her employment with PRG. PRG acquired the property because it was a substandard size lot and quite run down. In response to Scott’s questions, Wetzel-Mastel admitted the main reason for the acquisition was aesthetics. Apparently the project had a setback problem; Scott asked Wetzel-Mastel if it could have been solved by removing a unit; she said yes, but doing so would have eliminated an affordable housing unit (since PRG is a nonprofit, the issue wasn’t a loss of revenue).
Once PRG acquired Parcel B on the alley, it removed the building and the retaining wall on the site. Parcel A belonging to Lynne Mayo was then exchanged for Parcel B (Mayo would “come out ahead,” suggested Scott; the exchange also allowed PRG to resolve its setback dilemma). In response to Scott’s questions, Wetzel-Mastel admitted that Mayo was sometimes difficult to work with (often changing what she wanted), and the negotiations regarding the exchange took time. A neighborhood petition was circulated, requesting that PRG not tear down the house. The petition contained both Mayo’s and Zimmermann’s signatures, but Wetzel-Mastel said she did not recall seeing Zimmermann’s.
On August 23, 2003, the agreement with Mayo was signed. Before that there were a number of “loose ends” that needed to be resolved, such as what to do about the appearance of the lot (Wetzel-Mastel said she and her supervisor at the time, Michele Wiegand, were only tangentially involved in this issue). Wetzel-Mastel was shown Exhibit 22, the final result of negotiations with Mayo. Scott asked the witness when the final grading of Mayo’s lot was done, and Wetzel-Mastel said she didn’t remember. Sandra Loescher, a real estate broker for PRG, was involved in the final negotiations.
A string of emails dated Wednesday, August 13, 2003, was presented as Exhibit 21; Wetzel-Mastel received the missives as a “cc.” The messages were from Mayo, but they included an email to Mayo from Wiegand saying she [Mayo] only needed to consult with her advisor, Council Member Zimmermann, and asked Mayo to reply by Aug. 18. The August 18 email contained several handwritten entries penned by Wetzel-Mastel:
“2nd minor subdivision, need cooperation”;
“3rd final grading”
Wetzel-Mastel suggested these were notes she wrote in discussion with Mayo (intended as a list of to-do items). An email from Mayo to Loescher on August 18 contained similar handwritten notations: next to Mayo’s request for “tree care and removal” a handwritten note by Wetzel-Mastel said “ok,” as did a reference to “grading”; a mention of “sod” had a note next to it saying “negotiate,” and the words “retaining wall and fence” had notes saying “neg. if need” and “no other.”
Next the defense showed Wetzel-Mastel a photo of a house, with a tree leaning away from the home at an angle. Scott explained to the jury that Mayo’s request for “tree care and removal” involved this tree; Wetzel-Mastel explained that a trained arborist had determined that the tree didn’t need to be removed, so Mayo’s request was denied. PRG also decided that “in the long run” the retaining wall on the property wasn’t needed, and it was removed.
Government Exhibit 1, an addendum to the purchase agreement dated August 22, 2003, was then displayed. The language says “get grading of PRG lot if possible” before October 15, 2003, so it could be seeded before winter. Wetzel-Mastel explained that she was not present at the closing, but the grading still needed to be done when the lot was sold to Mayo.
A year later, in October 2004, the project was almost finished and Wetzel-Mastel was beginning to secure the Certificates of Completion. She did not supervise the final grading of the lot. In response to Scott’s questions, Wetzel-Mastel said PRG had installed retaining blocks or walls around the project parking lot and on one side of Mayo’s property (because of the grading). The grading did not necessitate a retaining wall on the other side of Mayo’s property, so PRG did not install one.
The next exhibit showed a house with a railroad tie placed along the alleyway; Wetzel-Mastel explains that the tie was not put there by PRG. Scott referenced an email from Zimmermann saying the “entrance looks a little ratty,” and asked the witness if she agreed. She said it was not up to the standards of the rest of the project, adding that “it’s an alley in south Minneapolis.”
Government Exhibit 2 was shown (email from Wetzel-Mastel to Zimmermann requesting Certificates of Completion). In response to questioning, Wetzel-Mastel indicated she knew, but had forgotten, that Zimmermann was involved in the negotiations with Mayo; she had also forgotten that issues with the conditions of Mayo’s property remained unresolved at the project’s completion. The defense reminded Wetzel-Mastel that Zimmermann’s first response to Wetzel-Mastel’s request was to say “will do” [meaning he’d sign the Certificates]; congratulate PRG on the project; and ask for names of people to welcome them to the neighborhood. After that, Zimmermann suggested PRG finish the retaining walls around the block and offered to do the work himself, saying the entrance looked ratty. He asked for Wetzel-Mastel’s “thoughts” on the issue in closing.
In an email dated October 21, Wetzel-Mastel informed Zimmermann that PRG would not comply with the retaining wall request. On October 29, Zimmermann followed up and asked if Wetzel-Mastel had any leftover bricks, would she put them in his yard and he’d build the wall. [Wetzel-Mastel also refused this request.] Later, at an open house, Wetzel-Mastel offered to research the type of bricks used and get the information to Zimmermann (assuming he wished to match the materials and purchase them himself). In response to the defense attorney’s questioning, Wetzel-Mastel said Zimmermann was “polite and friendly” and “easier to get along with than Mayo.” Wetzel-Mastel also admitted that PRG had trouble getting one or two of the Certificates of Completion; the difficulty was due to city staff, not Zimmermann.
The prosecutor (Docherty) asked Wetzel-Mastel to clarify several issues in her testimony, including the dates of events (mostly late 2002 and into 2003). Docherty asked if Zimmermann had attended any of Wetzel-Mastel’s meetings with Mayo; she said no, adding that there were no phone calls, either—only an indirect reference in the email about Zimmermann’s involvement as Mayo’s adviser. Docherty then referred to the comment about the “ratty appearance” of the alley area, asking Wetzel-Mastel if it was her understanding that Zimmermann was requesting a retaining wall on only one side of that alley [on Mayo’s property only]. She said yes.
The defense then asked if a retaining wall was built on the other side of the alley, across from Mayo’s property [on property owned by a neighbor]. Wetzel-Mastel said no. Scott then asked if PRG still had some responsibilities to Mayo left at the closing, including the grading of the property. She said yes.
Court recessed from 10:30-10:45.
Third witness for the prosecution: David Rubedor
The prosecution began its questioning by asking Rubedor for details about his responsibilities with PRG (he was executive director starting in June 2004) and his background. He was then asked if Wetzel-Mastel [his employee] had consulted him about her email response to Zimmermann’s request on October 21, 2004, for a retaining wall for Mayo. He said yes; in fact, he consulted PRG’s attorney, Angela Christy (of the Minneapolis law firm Faegre and Benson). He said he wanted to make sure PRG’s response was appropriate; clearly, he said, what was requested was “outside the scope” of the project. He estimated the value of the retaining wall at $2,000-$3,000. Government Exhibit 1 was then presented, an exchange agreement with MLM in which PRG agrees to pay $5,000 in addition to the exchange of property.
In response to cross-examination by Scott, Rubedor explained that he was not working for PRG in August 2003, when the land swap took place, nor was he involved in the grading of the lot in June 2004. He said in October of 2004 after PRG had relinquished title, PRG was still performing actions on the land. However, he said he hadn’t considered that when he helped compose Wetzel-Mastel’s response to Zimmermann’s request. Scott asked if the grading was done after PRG relinquished the property, and Rubedor said he didn’t know.
Fourth witness for the prosecution: Michael Orange
Orange is a retired city planner—“principal planner” when he retired after 30 years with the city; he was one of two staff assigned to prepare the planning report for the property at 2401 Chicago Avenue South (known as Chicago Commons). Orange began his testimony by supplying background information for the jury on principles and terminology of planning. Zoning, for example, was defined as an enforcement tool used by the city to encapsulate how it wants the city to look, as specified in the Comprehensive Plan. Cities zone, he said, to control offsite impacts such as the vibration, noise, and pollution of trucks in residential areas. Zoning is part of the code of ordinances. Orange then explained two zoning classifications used for Chicago Commons: C2 (zoned as commercial; the number represents intensity) and OR2 (used for a combination of office and residential space). An “overlay,” such as a pedestrian overlay, is used to span districts.
Because one of Zimmermann’s indictments involves promises of help with zoning changes at Chicago Commons, Orange explained the process of changing a project’s zoning: once the application is submitted by the developer, the city’s planning staff manage the process and write a report for the Planning Commission and the City Council (the chair of the Zoning and Planning committee sits on the Planning Commission). After the application has cleared the Planning Commission, it goes to the Zoning and Planning committee and then to the full Council, after which the mayor may still veto it. The developer at Chicago Commons had apparently attempted to change the property’s zoning on two separate occasions.
Government Exhibit 9 was then presented, a petition by the developer (Gary Carlson) for rezoning 2401 Chicago Avenue South from OR2 to C2 with a pedestrian overlay. Orange’s response to Carlson’s application was to write a report; based on that report, the Planning department recommended denial of Carlson’s application. Zoning and Planning also denied it, as did the full Council (the mayor did not veto their decision).
On June 16, 2005, Orange had a conversation with Council member Zimmermann over Carlson’s application (Zimmermann was a member of the Zoning and Planning committee; Chicago Commons is not located in what was then Zimmermann’s ward). Orange said he recalled the conversation took place after the Zoning and Planning denial, but he could not recall the date (he said the conversation could have taken place after the full council denial). Zimmermann asked Orange what Carlson could do after his application had been denied. Orange said (1) Carlson could sue the city (but unless the city’s decision had been “arbitrary and capricious,” success was unlikely); (2) he could wait a year and try again; (3) he could apply for a different zoning classification. Orange indicated that most of his contact with Zimmermann’s office involved Natalie Collins, Zimmermann’s aide (a common occurrence).
Scott then questioned the witness, asking if staff’s recommendation to Zoning and Planning could be overturned by the Council; Orange said yes. On larger projects, it is not uncommon for zoning to change as different developers propose different projects (e.g, the different proposals for the Sears renovation). Orange also discussed the history of 2401 Chicago Avenue South: Lonnie Nichols had worked on the project before Orange; prior to zoning as OR2, it was R2B (medium-density residential). The property had 81 condo units, with first floor office and commercial space on less than two acres.
Exhibit 9 was presented, a petition from Carlson for zoning changes. There were two previous applications, with the first submitted in early 2005: both were denied by the city attorney as “inadequate applications for zoning.” Zoning changes also require the signatures of two-thirds of the property owners within 100 feet of the property in question; Carlson’s second application contained a duplicate of the signatures used for his first request—a problem, since the two requests involved different zoning classifications. On April 28, 2005, the city attorney said the application met the minimum criteria, so the petition could go forward. Orange said he dealt with both Azzam Sabri and Carlson. The next Exhibit (the defense’s) contained three business cards for “danna” company: two were for Don and Gary Carlson, and the third was Azzam Sabri’s. All contained the same contact information.
Because Carlson was requesting a change from OR2 to C2 with a pedestrian overlay, Orange explained terminology for the jury. OR2 allows a maximum of two small (2000 sq. ft.) commercial businesses, but its primary designation is residential and incidentally office space. C2 on the other hand is broad and permissive, allowing auto-oriented businesses (service stations, convenience stores) and commercial/retail uses as large as 30,000 sq. ft. (large restaurants serving alcohol are also permitted). A pedestrian overlay prohibits auto-oriented business, but the designation can be used to provide constraints on broader zoning. When asked if C2 with a pedestrian overlay was appropriate for the area at 2401 Chicago Avenue South, Orange said the recommendation from Planning was no. The defense then asked him when he had laid out the three options for Carlson to Zimmermann. Orange said he couldn’t recall, but explained that a fourth option—the Council overriding a staff recommendation—wasn’t given. The prosecution then presented a CPED tracking sheet as Government Exhibit 8.
The court recessed for lunch from 12:00 until 1:30pm.
Fifth witness for the prosecution: Randall Morris-Ostrom
Morris-Ostrom was an attorney in the redistricting lawsuit (he worked with Larry Leventhal, the lead attorney. Other attorneys involved were Mark Hager and David Garlick). Zimmermann, Natalie Johnson-Lee, and a number of Green Party members were plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Morris-Ostrom was initially contracted full-time at the discounted rate of $12/hour, but he later dropped down to part-time work on the case. Morris-Ostrom eventually quit after working six months to a year on the case: he said he couldn’t make his monthly mortgage and money was coming in irregularly. Unlike most lawsuits, clients weren’t paying for the case; instead, a group called FREE (Friends for Redistricting Evenly and Equitably) was created to fundraise. Morris-Ostrom said most of the 16 plaintiffs never fundraised: he remembers some efforts by Cam Gordon, Natalie Johnson-Lee, Bruce Shoemaker, Zimmermann, and perhaps some by Jenny Heiser and Tom Taylor. He said he was still owed $3,000-$3,500, and didn’t expect to collect. In response to questioning he said he could not remember learning of $5,000 being raised in June 2005, at least for attorneys’ fees.
During the defense’s cross-examination Morris-Ostrom said he received more checks for his work in the beginning, and most fundraising was done then. Morris-Ostrom said Jenny Heiser had helped recruit him from the Quaker community of Friends; Heiser had hired him initially to collect evidence for the case, a “civil-rights” style lawsuit.
Sixth witness for the prosecution: Bruce Shoemaker
Shoemaker is a freelance consultant for humanitarian causes in Southeast Asia who met Zimmermann in 1998 when Zimmermann served as a contractor on his home. [The judge referred to Shoemaker’s “colorful” and interesting life: Shoemaker had just returned from a houseboat on the Ohio River and planned to go back there after testimony.] In 2002 he became a major plaintiff in the redistricting lawsuit. Initially Shoemaker got involved as a result of working for Shane Price’s campaign in Northeast Minneapolis; he believes he was asked to join the lawsuit as a resident of the Third Ward.
Shoemaker said there was a fundraiser for FREE in late 2002, but not much effort was put into fundraising: there was no decision-making structure in place, so nothing was really coordinated. Originally there was a central bank account for donations, as well as a website and PayPal; money collected could go into that account or it could go directly to the lawyers to help reduce the debt. The treasurer was Dayne Walling (who worked for the Urban Coalition). When asked if anyone ever gave money directly, Shoemaker said he gave $500 directly to Leventhal, but he didn’t know the specifics of other direct contributions. He had understood that the plaintiffs would make a good-faith effort to raise money for the attorneys. When the depositions came out, legal and other fees became an issue. Shoemaker said people signed onto the lawsuit like it was a petition; he tried several times to coordinate the group, since his career allowed him periods of free time.
The prosecution then presented Exhibit 11, an April 4, 2005, invoice to FREE from Leventhal for legal services, etc. (mailed to Shoemaker’s home). The total was $101,753.36 for legal costs [the original total shown was $107, 902.01; however, several itemized payments were listed between January ’04 and January ’05, reducing the balance to $101,753.36. There were no itemized payments of $5,000.].
Shoemaker was then asked if he was aware of a $5,000 payment in June of 2005. He replied, “that sounds right.” Shoemaker then explained that since FREE was not a 501c3, contributions were not tax-deductible; Walling helped set up an account with the Urban Coalition so people could write checks to FREE and receive a tax deduction through the Urban Coalition’s 501c3 status. This situation didn’t last long: the Urban Coalition went bankrupt and Walling left, so it became hard to get FREE’s money out. Shoemaker said over $1,000 of FREE’s money was lost. The other FREE account was closed in early 2005: Walling had more responsibilities and simply burned out. The redistricting case was still on appeal in early May 2005; Shoemaker left town until late September.
Shoemaker was then asked, “You did get some money in last Fall?” Shoemaker said yes; he learned Zimmermann had received $5,000 plus another $1,000 for the redistricting lawsuit. Shoemaker discussed with plaintiffs the need for a bank account, but he said it was more difficult to do that under Homeland Security legislation. He said money was put in a separate bank account in Northeast Minneapolis and out of that, the plaintiffs paid Leventhal and a partner $1,000 and kept $5,000 in the account to see if the city would charge them for liability. The city had 90 days to appeal (they didn’t); the city had 90 more days to claim expenses (they didn’t; the window for doing so is now over). Money is still available to pay lawyers. The plaintiffs never signed an agreement to pay lawyers themselves, though Shoemaker made a number of contributions to FREE (his father and friends gave several thousand dollars). FREE also prepared a direct mailing to raise funds; he said he couldn’t remember if Zimmermann had helped, but Joe Barisonzi did.
Docherty then asked Shoemaker if Zimmermann had discussed any contributions with him on May Day 2005: Shoemaker said no. The prosecution then presented Exhibits 64 and 65, invoices from Leventhal dated September 6, 2005 and August 20, 2005. As with Exhibit 11, Exhibit 64 (September 6, 2005) showed a balance owed of $101,753.36. [The Exhibit showed no itemized payment of $5,000 for June 2005.]
Seventh witness for the prosecution: Dayne Walling
Walling came to Minnesota from Michigan in July 2002, and worked as a policy advocate (primarily on state-level issues, some metro) for the Urban Coalition. The president/CEO of the Urban Coalition assigned Walling to the 2001 redistricting committee to be helpful. Walling became treasurer, and the Urban Coalition offered fiscal sponsorship for awhile. Walling served from summer 2003 to May 2005, opening a Wells Fargo business account and funds to the Urban Coalition (Walling monitored the reports). Between $14,000 and $15,000 were raised when Walling worked as treasurer.
The prosecution presented Exhibit 10, a printout of an email from Leventhal to Walling dated June 23, 2004; the email listed fees totaling $106,013. When Walling closed the FREE account in May 2005, only a few thousand dollars remained. He remembered only two fundraising events: one that took place before he was treasurer and one during that period. He thought Zimmermann had done some fundraising but Walling said he never witnessed Zimmermann’s fundraising efforts.
Scott then asked Walling whether fiscal sponsorship disappeared with the demise of the Urban Coalition; Walling said yes. Some money (under $2,000, maybe $1,500-1,700; he told the FBI $1,071) was lost then; FREE also lost its 501c3 tax deduction for contributions. Between summer 2003 and 2005, Walling dealt with a few members of FREE: Zimmermann, Jenny Heiser, Tom Taylor. The email from June 23, 2004 from Leventhal to Walling suggested Walling pay Leventhal $1,500 (despite the much larger total debt owed). Walling said he never felt any pressure from Leventhal that the latter would sue for the money. Walling closed the account in May 2005 and wrote a check to Leventhal on May 27, 2005; after the check was written, only $1.63 remained in the account.
Court recessed from 2:50-3:00
Eighth witness for the prosecution: Gary Carlson
Gary A. Carlson has been a builder since 1986 or ’87; he is president of “danna” (a general contracting company) and Chicago Commons (a company created for the project at 2401 Chicago Avenue South). Chicago Commons, Carlson explained, was meant to be a mixed-use project, with retail on the ground level and condos (81) on the upper floors.
The prosecution presented Exhibits 13 and 14, aerial photos of Chicago Commons (nearby landmarks Abbott Northwestern and Children’s Hospital were pointed out for the jury). Exhibit 15, an architectural drawing, was also shown.
Carlson explained that the existing building on the site was torn down; Carlson financed Chicago Commons partly with his own money, putting in $1 million in cash and re-mortgaging his own home. The initial zoning for Chicago Commons was OR2 in summer 2004; the groundbreaking took place in October 2004, and construction was completed in September or October 2005. The zoning designation of OR2 allowed for two planned retail businesses, one (a coffee shop) of 2,800 square feet and the other (a small grocery store) on 1,300 square feet; zoning required that both be sited on Chicago. As Carlson tried to sell the condos, he discovered problems: In order to market the condos to those who worked in the area, he needed local businesses like dry cleaning. Carlson wanted to add those businesses to his site plan.
Carlson first met Zimmermann in October or November 2004 at City Hall; Azzam Sabri, whom Carlson had known for four or five years (he considered him a friend and helped Azzam with his mortgage), introduced Carlson to Zimmermann. He met Zimmermann casually a second time. His first one-on-one meeting with Zimmermann took place at a groundbreaking on Franklin and Portland (Carlson was invited to the event by Sabri); there the issue of money came up. Carlson asked Zimmermann, “What can I do to help you get elected?” Zimmermann walked him away from the event and told him about the redistricting lawsuit and the accompanying debt of over $100,000. Zimmermann asked Carlson for a $40,000 donation to help defray the legal fees. Carlson suggested the amount was quite high. Carlson offered to speak with the lawyers in the case. Azzam is the one who initially suggested Zimmermann could help Carlson with his zoning problems: Chicago Commons was Carlson’s first multi-unit project and his first in Minneapolis.
In May 2005, Azzam invited Carlson to a Shriner’s function for African-American businesses (Azzam had told him it was the Sierra Club on Park Avenue). Carlson had a private conversation with Zimmermann outside when Carlson took a cigarette break. Carlson mentioned he had recently had a fundraiser for Norm Coleman at his house; Zimmermann chided Carlson for not inviting him. Carlson replied by saying he didn’t think Zimmermann [as a Green] would want to attend a Republican fundraiser. Zimmermann responded by saying, “Liberals, Greens, Democrats, Republicans…it’s all money.” Carlson said he didn’t recall if he discussed zoning with Zimmermann.
Carlson promptly told the FBI (Agent Tim Bisswurm); after this, all encounters with Zimmermann were recorded.
Meanwhile, Carlson’s rezoning application with the city (Michael Orange) wasn’t going well. The prosecution introduced Exhibit 13 showing the Village Market retail mall (“kitty corner” from Chicago Commons). Carlson explained the Village Market was giving him “marketing problems” as he tried to sell his condos (his target population was staff at the hospitals and Wells Fargo—area workers). The area was an “evolving neighborhood” on the upswing; the Village was originally approved for 38 Somali shops, but the number was increased to 146 shops, with no extra parking (only 20-27 spaces total) and no zoning changes. Soon there were shootings, stabbings, and drug dealing. Carlson said there was a “cause and effect” relationship between the increase in crime and the Village Market.
For Chicago Commons, Carlson sought a zoning classification of C2 with a pedestrian overlay (the overlay restricts C2 to neighborhood, walkable businesses). Carlson felt the crime around the Village Market might be discouraging prospective tenants, since the lack of parking increased activity in the surrounding neighborhood.
The FBI had previously asked Carlson to cooperate: Apparently Carlson was being investigated by the Justice Department for a $15,000 investment he had made in East Bank, then divested in 2002 or 2003. In response to questioning, Carlson said the government had asked him to come in to talk with them about the issue if something came up; Carlson said he never had that conversation with the Justice Department, and he couldn’t recall whether he was promised that the bank issue wouldn’t be used against him.
In June 2005, Carlson met Zimmermann at the Black Forest Inn; Carlson was wearing an FBI “wire.” Carlson understood the event was a birthday party for Zimmermann but said he did not know it was a fundraising event. At this point, the prosecution introduced Exhibit 16, an audio tape. Members of the jury were given a transcript of the recording; the judge cautioned them to consider the audiotape as evidence, not the transcript.
First audiotape: Black Forest Inn (June 2005)
[Music, laughter, voices.] Zimmermann says something about four or five jerks on the neighborhood committee in the context of discussing a vote with Carlson; Zimmermann tells Carlson to send him an email. Carlson asks Zimmermann, “What can I do to help you?” and Zimmermann replies “Money, money, money.” The issue of the redistricting suit comes up, and Zimmermann says something about $90,000. Carlson suggests it wouldn’t hurt if he gave them $4,000-5,000. He asks Zimmermann to keep quiet about it to Azzam. The Village Market, crime, and drug dealing are discussed. Carlson tells Zimmermann if you want me to do more, that’s fine; you need money in this campaign. Zimmermann asks if “you’ve got a cousin or something, you can give in their name” (when Carlson donates). Carlson then mentions something about having several (cousins).
The prosecution resumed its cross-examination of Carlson. Exhibit 12, a Ward map containing a handwritten phone number, is presented. Zimmermann had given the map to Carlson and jotted his home phone number on the map. Chicago Commons is not in Zimmermann’s ward but across the street from it. The Village is owned by Azzam and Azi and another person; Carlson explained that his friendship with Azzam had dissolved over the problems with the Village.
In response to questioning, Carlson explained that he really has no cousins (only himself, his wife, brother, and mother). He also explained that he did not attend the June 13, 2005, Zoning and Planning Committee meeting where his zoning application was denied (he said he thought staff had recommended denial but he wasn’t sure). The prosecution introduced Exhibit 17, a taped phone conversation with Zimmermann.
Second audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on June 14, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Zimmermann asks Carlson what happened at the Zoning and Planning meeting the previous day. Carlson explains that his application was denied and asks to meet with Zimmermann at lunch today, around 1:00 (somewhere they won’t be “too bothered”). Zimmermann says that’s what he’s thinking, and they agree to meet at Baja Riverside.
The prosecution resumed its questioning of Carlson, asking him whether Azzam had a connection with “danna,” Carlson’s company. Carlson responded by saying Azzam and his brothers had many projects in the city and had never had problems getting their projects approved; Carlson offered Azzam a minority shareholder agreement, calling him a vice-president, even though Azzam never officially became a shareholder. Azzam offered Carlson a note but never paid. The association between them ended in January, February, or early March and Carlson tried to dissociate himself from Azzam Sabri.
Court recessed until 4:15
In response to questioning, Carlson explained that he didn’t think the issue of zoning had arisen when he met Zimmermann at the Shriner’s. Carlson is shown a copy of the FBI report of his conversation with Zimmermann at the Shriner’s and asked if it was correct; he said it was. The prosecution then asked Carlson if the subject of zoning had come up at the May 20 meeting with Zimmermann, and Carlson said he had brought it up; Zimmermann responded by saying he needed cash, and quick. Zimmermann gave Carlson his phone number. Carlson took $5,000 (50 $100 bills) to his meeting with Zimmermann at the Baja. The prosecution then introduced Exhibit 18, a videotape.
First videotape: meeting with Zimmermann at Baja Riverside June 14, 2005
Jokes and banter [in part about not being bothered at the Baja, since the place was virtually empty]. They order chicken or buffalo wings and Bacardi cokes. Carlson hands Zimmermann an envelope and explains, “This is for that attorney thing or whatever you talked about…use it what you want…Be careful with that money…” Zimmermann checks the envelope and slips it in his pocket.
Carlson says, “I can’t believe last night,” and they discuss the Zoning and Planning decision, the neighborhood group [Midtown Phillips], the Village Market, and Shirley Heyer. Carlson brings up Azzam, the Sabri reputation, adding that Azzam has no money. Carlson says he needs Zimmermann’s help and explains that Chicago Commons is a good project. He explains that Midtown Phillips thinks Azzam is still associated with the project (Azzam had authority to speak on behalf of the corporation; however, Azzam was given a document by Carlson’s brother that Azzam altered and then re-notarized). Carlson explains to Zimmermann that the neighborhood thought Carlson was associated with the Village Market and assumed Chicago Commons was simply an “expansion” of the Village Market. Zimmermann tells Carlson he should appeal the Zoning decision and indicates the staff report mentioned the importance of preserving the residential character of Chicago. Zimmermann says that argument isn’t tough to counter: Carlson could use the Eye Institute and other businesses in the area and argue that the area isn’t residential at all but rather part of the “biomedical corridor.” Zimmermann says the area should be more of a commercial corridor anyway, not residential. Carlson refers to the need for dry cleaning and local grocery stores, etc. in the area. [Zimmermann orders another drink.] Carlson says he’s got a council member there who “just doesn’t get it,” who never had a real job, “like us,” and therefore the council member will never understand business.
Carlson then explains that Chicago Commons has 81 condo units and more than enough parking [he’s contrasting his project to Village Market]. Carlson says those who come to the Village Market don’t live in the area. He says “we need to clear up this Sabri thing” [the neighborhood’s perception that he’s still involved with Azzam]. Carlson tells Zimmermann, “We need people like you to get elected, and we need this zoning.” He then mentions Shirley Heyer and says the documents that Azzam changed were those that went to Michael Orange [city planner]. Carlson asks Zimmermann, “Who can you get on your side, ‘cause I know you can override it” [the zoning decision]. Zimmermann then explains, “what my campaign needs is four to five young people…slip them $100 a week, they don’t need much, can’t run it through the campaign.” Carlson says “I’ve got $8 million riding on this project, so whatever you need.”
Robert Lilligren’s name comes up in conversation. Carlson says he tried to set up a meeting with Lilligren, but Lilligren didn’t show up. Carlson then repeats the story about Shirley Heyer and the neighborhood association’s objections to the project [based on his presumed association with Azzam Sabri]. Carlson talks about there being 146 shops at Village Market but zoned for far fewer, saying “we need to create a space for the Somali community like what we have there.” [This is the first time this suggestion/proposal is mentioned.]
Conversation ensues, with one of them saying, “The Sabri boys are really putting those Somalis in a tough place.” Carlson says something about Zimmermann having staff he could hire for his campaign [no suggestions of names here]. Zimmermann says he’s up against a dilemma: “Should I help the Sabris so these [Somali] businesses can just stay in business?” [More discussion…Carlson steers the conversation back to his zoning issue, saying there aren’t a lot of votes involved.] Carlson explains that the city needs Council people who understand growth in the city; he then refers to the upcoming elections, saying “Lilligren thinks he has it sewed up.” Zimmermann replies, “That’s what we want him to think.” Zimmermann says Lilligren’s problem is he thinks all you need is people active in the neighborhood and the DFL. Carlson says campaigns take money, adding that “all you ever hear from is the activists.” He says Zimmermann is a good name, like Carlson; Lilligren is not. Folks understand that, he says.
Carlson says, “we’ve got to beef up your campaign, strong, and I’ve got to get this project through.” Zimmermann discusses strategy with the neighborhood group, saying “you’ve got to get to Shirley” [Heyer]. Carlson asks how many are on the city council; Zimmermann says 13, with about six on Zoning and Planning, including Lilligren. Zimmermann advises Carlson to talk to Shirley and counteract impressions of the Village Market. Zimmermann says, “if Sabri goes belly up…” Carlson says, “the Sabris and the neighborhood, what they pull and do, it’s only a matter of time…” Carlson then refers to the “Arab mentality,” which he describes as a “bragging thing, ego, they know you and so then they say you’re partners…” He adds that “when it comes down to it, I’ve gotten screwed by about 99 percent of them.”
He says, “Dean, I need you to push and do certain favors for me, but you need to get elected first.” He says something about having cousins, but there being a $300 per person campaign contribution limit and adds, “how do I do it?” Zimmermann advises him to go to his friends and cousins, give them $300 each to donate, but give each of them a check for $350. Carlson explains that he has lots of employees and contractors working for him; he says he’ll get started on his employees. Zimmermann cautions him, saying “you’ve got to be careful, you don’t want them all showing up [on Zimmermann’s campaign finance records] as all working for you.” Carlson says he’s got lots of friends. Zimmermann tells Carlson to “give them money, have them write a check to me…I don’t want to know about it.”
Zimmermann explains that the campaign contribution limit is $300 for an individual, $600 for a couple/family. He says Carlson could make up names or give money to people and have them write a check (says Carlson could give them $350, write a check for $300). Zimmermann adds that you’ve got to list their occupations. Carlson asks if they need to live in the ward. Zimmermann says no, adding that his ward is a poor ward, and he can’t rely on people in his ward for all his campaign donations. Carlson mentions the benefit he hosted for Coleman, mentions his own home in Florida, and discusses deep-sea fishing (inviting Zimmermann, who says he’s never been). Carlson pays for lunch. Zimmermann puts a little cash on the table then withdraws some, saying something like, “In all honesty, I can say I left money on the table. See, we split the bill.”