Notes from Day Three (August 3) of the Dean Zimmermann: The trial resumed at around 9:40 today, with a thin crowd of observers in the courtroom (not uncommon for the morning). I’m amused: before the judge or jury arrived, the prosecutor complimented the defense attorney on his suit.
The trial picked up where it left off yesterday: Carlson is again sworn in on the witness stand, and the prosecution resumes the videotape of Zimmermann and Carlson having lunch at the Baja on June 14, 2005; at this point, the bill has been paid and the two of them are chatting. Carlson says something about his company being 8A in federal defense, then says he’ll start locating friends and relatives, telling Zimmermann “you start pushing” on the zoning. Zimmermann says Chicago Commons is actually in Lilligren’s ward, will be in Schiff’s ward after redistricting (it borders the Ninth Ward now). He adds something about Schiff not being a real favorite, “not with the Sabris.” Zimmermann says we’ll have to figure out how to dissociate ourselves from them, adding “you think he [Azzam Sabri] switched the documents?” Carlson again insists that “danna” company is owned by “Julie and I.” He then talks about the Village Market and criminal activity. One of them says “it’s hard to know what’s a shop there and what’s not,” and Carlson says “each one is twice as sleazy as the next.” One of them says, “Azzmir is the one in Jordan…Did they arrive here with money?” Carlson says, “They sure figured out how to assemble a lot of money in a hurry…except Azzam. He’s got no money.” Carlson then lists the names of Azzam’s children, with one of them being “Danna.” Carlson says he [Azzam] doesn’t pay taxes, doesn’t care about the neighborhood, doesn’t care about America.
Once they’re outside the restaurant, Carlson offers Zimmermann a ride. Zimmermann declines, and Carlson says something like, “I guess you can’t be seen riding in Hummer.” Carlson adds, “Now Lilligren’s riding a bicycle, too. DWI’ll do that.” Zimmermann says, “I want to deny categorically that I’m calling for his resignation.”
At this point, the prosecution decided to replay the beginning of the videotape for the jury because technical issues made it difficult to catch the first part yesterday. Once again we see Zimmermann and Carlson be seated at a table at the Baja; they chat for a few minutes about the weather; Carlson decides to order a “Bacardi coke,” and Zimmermann decides to have the same. Carlson hands Zimmermann an envelope and says, “This is for that attorney thing…use it what you want…Be careful with that money….” Zimmermann checks the envelope and then pockets it. Carlson examines a computer printout of an email that Zimmermann said he had printed off right before he came.
The prosecution stopped the tape. The prosecuting attorney, Docherty, asked Carlson how much lunch cost that day; Carlson said about $28. Carlson then asked him who had picked up the bill, and he replied that he had. Carlson said he contacted Zimmermann the next day, June 15th: One of the agents (Kukura or Bisswurm) was present when Carlson made the call. The audio tape is presented to the jury as Government Exhibit 19.
Third audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on June 15, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Zimmermann begins the conversation by saying he had talked with Schiff: the zoning for Chicago Commons was OR2 now, and he thought OR2 was better for what Carlson wanted. Carlson replies by saying that zoning classification allows for only two businesses, and he wants more retail…He says he’s trying to get more businesses [into Chicago Commons]. He adds something like, “Got to get on that agenda.” Carlson asks about the relation to the Planning Commission; at this point, Carlson wonders if the issue would go to the full City Council regardless of the Zoning and Planning/Planning Commission vote. Zimmermann says if Carlson’s zoning application were to be turned down, he’d have 10 days to appeal the decision. Carlson asks, “could I then be on the agenda?” Zimmermann says he doesn’t know, then asks Carlson to email him a list of businesses…he says he wants the right zoning.
Carlson says again, “get me on the agenda,” and adds something like, “remember the Baja conversation and those campaign workers?” Zimmermann says “uh huh,” then adds, “if what Schiff says is true, the best zoning is OR2; I don’t think it’s true only two businesses.” Zimmermann then explains that as head of the Zoning and Planning committee, Schiff also sits on the Planning Commission. Carlson says he needs to talk to Shirley [Heyer], and Zimmermann says he might have her cell phone number. He offers to get it to Carlson and “get them [the neighborhood] behind you.”
The prosecution then turned back to Carlson on the witness stand, asking if Carlson had sent Zimmermann a list of the types of businesses he wanted. The prosecution entered the email as Exhibit 20, dated June 16, 2005. The email was shown on the screens; the list included a restaurant, a dry cleaners, a sandwich shop, a health food store, and a coffee shop—all neighborhood businesses that local residents might frequent without having to drive.
Carlson called Zimmermann later that day (at Zimmermann’s Council office). The audio tape of that conversation is entered as Government Exhibit 21. Like the previous call, this one was made at the request and in the presence of an FBI agent.
Fourth audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on June 16, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
A Council aide answers the phone and transfers the call to Zimmermann. It sounds as though Zimmermann is reading from printed material. He says, “I don’t see a problem with C2, I mean OR2. Two businesses is only one part…bunch of crap here, OK, Natalie, my aide, did a bunch of research…it’s saying…OR2 zones, different categories: office by matter of right, bed and breakfast…conditional use, neighborhood services…maximum 2000 sq. ft., skip past that to ‘planned community development.’ If we do all this with ‘planned community development,’ there are no restrictions (OR2), so it’s just what you call it…I’ve got a call in to Lonnie Nichols.” Carlson tells him the planner working on the application is Michael Orange. Zimmermann says, “we looked it up and it said Lonnie.” Carlson explains that’s no longer true [Michael Orange is now working on the application].
Zimmermann then asks Carlson about the emailed list of businesses, wondering if the list is complete. Carlson says it is, adding that the dry cleaning will not be done on site, but is just a drop off and pick up business. Zimmermann says, “I just think we’ve got a winner here.” Carlson replies, “god, you’re doing a good job.” Zimmermann says, “I’ll call Orange…I think we stop using the words ‘neighborhood serving retail’ and call it ‘planned commercial development.’” Carlson asks if he still needs to appeal. Zimmermann says, “I don’t know, I’ll call Orange.” Carlson then asks Zimmermann if he’s available for lunch, and Zimmermann says, “Why don’t we put that off and get this project figured out, then we’ll get together later.”
The prosecution then turned to Carlson and asked, “Was that your most detailed conversation?” He said yes. Another recorded call, this one on June 20th, is introduced as Exhibit 22.
Fifth audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on June 20, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Carlson says something about an appeal, says they’re on for the July 14th Zoning and Planning committee [he then says something about getting on the agenda and what happens after the Planning Commission’s denial]; he adds that he’s “still confused.” Zimmermann says that for planned commercial development he’d need two acres. Carlson says he has only 1.5 acres, and says “they’ll only allow us two retail” [businesses]. Zimmermann says “the current zoning is OR2…you’re applying for C2 with a pedestrian overlay.” Carlson says Lonnie [in Planning] had started working with them, followed by Graham, a consultant. He repeats that he’s confused; Zimmermann says “join the crowd.” Zimmermann asks if there’s no retail planned on Elliott, and Carlson says “no, none.” Zimmermann asks if Michael Orange is working on this, and says a lot of people have had their fingers in it.
Carlson says “the problem is the Sabris, they’re poison.” Zimmermann adds, “it’s like grabbing a tar baby if you touch them.” Carlson says “Michael’s never around.” Zimmermann mentions Steve Poor and the pedestrian overlay, then says there’s no drive-up restaurant…this is pedestrian overlay, not housing overlay…tell me again how many units? Carlson says he has 81, with 33,000 sq. ft.; he says the city will allow two businesses of 2800 and 1300 sq. ft. for retail.
Zimmermann asks him if he’s spoken with Shirley Heyer; Carlson says no, not since he and Lilligren met with the neighborhood and they told him Chicago Commons was basically an extension of the Village Market; he says he tried to tell Shirley that he wasn’t with the Sabris and was on their [Midtown Phillips’s] side. Carlson explains that Lilligren said he had to have other people approve a meeting with Shirley, “whatever that means.” He reiterates that the meeting with Zoning and Planning was scheduled for July 14th. Zimmermann says he’ll make a few calls and call him back.
After playing the tape, Docherty asked Carlson if Zimmermann was harder to reach before the meeting at Baja; Carlson said he was, adding that Zimmermann was very accessible after Baja. The next phone call, on June 28th, is entered as Exhibit 23.
Sixth audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on June 28th, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Carlson begins the call by asking Zimmermann, “where do we stand? Any news?” Zimmermann says not really, saying he hasn’t really counted the numbers yet [presumably this is number of Council Members voting to approve], but adds that “we’re still on for two weeks.” The two of them then discuss dental work for awhile and Zimmermann says “we’re getting together at some point—you and I, Lilligren, and staff?” Carlson says he finally got the neighborhood to send an email, and Zimmermann coaches, “don’t oversell yourself.” More discussion ensues about the Village Mall and the attitudes of the neighborhood. Zimmermann says he talked a bit with Schiff, explaining that he [Zimmermann] has it on his calendar, and adds that there’s no need to get together right now. Carlson asks Zimmermann to call him back when he can set a meeting with Schiff. Zimmermann says he’ll call later.
The prosecution then discussed the Zoning and Planning meeting on July 14, 2005; Carlson’s application for a zoning change was denied. In response to questioning Carlson said he was not present at the committee meeting and said he didn’t think Zimmermann had showed up, either. Carlson made a follow-up phone call about the meeting to Zimmermann on July 18th, 2005; the audio tape of that meeting is entered as Exhibit 24.
Seventh audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on July 18th, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Zimmermann appears to answer this phone call [Carlson appears to have called him at Zimmermann’s home]. Carlson asked him, “what happened Friday?” Zimmermann says he wasn’t able to get there [to the Zoning and Planning meeting], Carlson’s application was put first on the agenda, and he didn’t have the votes necessary to “put that through.” He says there’s always room for amendments. He then says something about Carlson having C2 zoning now, and Carlson says “no, OR2.” Zimmermann asks if it’s a coffee shop and something else for the retail. He says the problem is there’s so much commercial [development] already in the area.
Zimmermann again mentions the perception that Carlson is linked with the Sabris. Carlson says, “the Sabris have nothing whatsoever to do with our project.” Zimmermann tells Carlson he’ll try to get the item [of Carlson’s zoning application] sent back to committee before Council takes a final vote on it. He asks if Carlson has had an opportunity to sit down with Lilligren. Carlson says Lilligren is listening to the neighborhood group and won’t return his calls. [There’s then a reference to Lake and 27th, crime, and drug activity.] Carlson says, “these people just take advantage of immigrants…can you explain the process to me?” Zimmermann says to talk to people on the committee and “so will I. Get them to reconsider, get the neighborhood people ‘buy in’ and get them to call Lilligren. Let’s talk this afternoon.”
The prosecution then turned back to Carlson to discuss what happened at the full City Council vote on July 22, 2005. Carlson’s rezoning application was one of several items grouped together as “consent items,” meaning the Council would vote to approve the Zoning and Planning committee’s decision on these items. Zimmermann voted to approve the consent items and therefore voted with the rest of the Council in denying Carlson’s rezoning application. Zimmermann left a voicemail for Carlson on July 26th; this voicemail was presented by the prosecution as Exhibit 25.
Eighth audiotape: voicemail message left by Zimmermann on July 26th, 2005 (audiotape given to Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Zimmermann explains the vote on Carlson’s project, saying he couldn’t even find anyone to second a motion to return the item to committee. He says he’s not sure where to go with it from here, says he knows Carlson wants more retail, and adds that they’re “up against Lilligren” as Council Member of the ward. He asks Carlson to call him and “let’s see where we can go.”
The prosecution asked Carlson to clarify an earlier point regarding the Baja restaurant conversation. Docherty mentioned that at the Baja, Zimmermann had left three bills on the table. Carlson explained that Zimmermann had originally left four $1 bills [presumably the tip], but then took $1 back and left only $3.
Docherty then returned to July 26th, 2005. Carlson returned Zimmermann’s phone call later that day. The ensuing conversation is entered as Government Exhibit 26.
Ninth audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on July 26th, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Zimmermann explains that he’s frustrated, saying he couldn’t find any support to second a motion to return Carlson’s item to committee. Carlson tells Zimmermann that Zoning and Planning told him he cannot appeal the decision now. He says he has written proof that there’s no association between him and the Sabris, that Chicago Commons is not a Sabri property. Zimmermann asks Carlson who he’s working with, and Carlson tells him Orange. He then explains that “Donald” [Carlson’s brother] tried to appeal, but Steve Poor said no. Carlson says he needs approval for two more shops. Zimmermann says Carlson can still open for two shops, and Carlson replies that they’ll need to be 2800 and 1300 sq. ft. maximum. Zimmermann replies that those are “pretty small in and of themselves,” and wonders if Carlson can amend his application and make those spaces bigger. Carlson says bigger, or two more shops. Zimmermann says Carlson can always put in a plan to do something else, and ends the conversation by saying he’ll call Michael [presumably Michael Orange].
The prosecution then presents another voicemail tape recorded on July 26th; it is Exhibit 27.
Tenth audiotape: voicemail message left by Zimmermann on July 26th, 2005 (audiotape given to Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Zimmermann explains that he spoke to Orange, and “we’ve run out of options”; he says Carlson cannot apply for rezoning again for another year. He asked Carlson about his idea of using part of the space to provide rooms for people whose children were being treated at Children’s Hospital nearby. He asked if Carlson could perhaps use the space for doctors’ offices, massage therapy, etc. He asked Carlson if he had sold any of the housing units yet, adding that Chicago Commons was a good location for doctors. He asked Carlson to call him back.
The prosecution again returned to the June 14th. meeting at the Baja, where the topic of an alternative mall for the Somalis had come up. Exhibit 28 was then introduced; it is a phone conversation between Zimmermann and Carlson on August 1, 2005.
Eleventh audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on August 1, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Carlson calls Zimmermann and says he thinks he has a solution for everybody, and he asks to meet with Zimmermann (evening, have a beer, etc). Zimmermann says he’ll have to call Carlson back after he’s finished at the office.
Zimmermann returned the call later that day. It is recorded as Exhibit 29 dated August 1, 2005. An agent was not present with Carlson when the call was made, so the recording began with the conversation already in progress (Carlson had to plug in the equipment himself, so it took a few minutes).
Twelfth audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on August 1, 2005 (first part of conversation not recorded; FBI agents not present)
Carlson discusses the problems with the Village Market, saying the Somalis keep coming to him; he refers to Hamoudi [Sabri] as “out of control.” He tells Zimmermann that finding a location for a new Somali mall will “make you a hero, help rid the neighborhood of crime, help the neighbors and help the Somalis.” He says he wants Zimmermann’s help finding the Somalis a building to relocate in [diverting business from the Village Market], adding that he wants no financial part in it—he says the Somalis themselves should own it, so they’ll get away from the “terrorism over there,” and says something about getting a Weed and Seed program in. He asks if Zimmermann has time tomorrow. [The next day is apparently National Night Out, and Zimmermann mentions that he has a busy schedule.] Carlson says something about meeting on site [at Chicago Commons?] for a beer. Zimmermann mentions the next morning as a possibility, and a meeting is scheduled for 9:30 the next morning; Carlson says he’ll give Zimmermann a tour of Chicago Commons and they can sit and talk.
The prosecution questioned Carlson again; apparently the meeting scheduled for August 2nd never took place. Carlson said he waited for Zimmermann an hour or so and then tried to reach him. Exhibit 30, a phone conversation with Zimmermann at about 10:30 on August 2nd, is presented to the jury.
Thirteenth audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on August 2, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Zimmermann says, “I fucked up. I’m OK, I totally spaced this out.” Carlson attempts to reschedule. Zimmermann says, “not today, I’m not going into the office today, it’s National Night Out and I’m gonna be all over the place.” Zimmermann suggests they meet on Thursday at 9:00, but Carlson says he’ll be out of town, and suggests Wednesday evening or anytime. They agree to meet at 12:30 the next day, Wednesday.
The prosecution asked Carlson if that meeting took place, and he said it did. Carlson explained that the meeting actually took place at around 1:00. In response to questioning, Carlson said there were no other face-to-face meetings with Zimmermann in the interval between the meeting at the Baja and this August 3rd meeting. Carlson was “wired” by the FBI with audio and video equipment for this meeting at Chicago Commons on August 3rd, 2005. This videotape is Government Exhibit 31. A portion of the videotape (DVD) was played for the jury.
Second videotape: meeting with Zimmermann at Chicago Commons on August 3, 2005
The scene is a construction area; we hear a few people’s voices as Zimmermann and Carlson tour the building. Apparently there was a stabbing that occurred in the area about “20-25 minutes ago,” prompting a discussion about drug deals, a situation “out of control” at the Village Market, and a reference to an incident in which a woman had been shot in the neck. Someone [Carlson or an employee on the site] says a bystander had approached a policeman with the license plate number of someone involved in the crime, but the police refused to investigate since no one was killed. Warren Whitman, the third precinct sergeant, is mentioned; Dave Esplund, the project superintendent on the site, is also introduced.
Carlson tells Zimmermann that Lilligren won’t do anything and won’t return Carlson’s phone calls. [As he and Zimmermann walk, he points out the drainage system and the landscaping, noting that the run-off from the parking lot is captured on the site.] Carlson refers to an old man that Hamoudi [Sabri] had “beaten up badly”; Hamoudi had bragged to Carlson about it, saying “I’ll show you how to run these fuckin’ people.” He then points out to Zimmermann two dedication plaques on the site, one to his father and the other to the father of his project supervisor.
Carlson explains that the Somalis are looking to get away from the Sabris, and he says they need to search for a location that could be owned by the Somalis; he suggests the warehouse district might be good. Zimmermann agrees that they need to find a place and he asks Carlson how much square footage they’d require. Carlson says lots of it, for retail space. Zimmermann suggests the old arsenic triangle location, saying Ryan Companies owns it and it’s rehabbed and waiting, there’s nothing on it now. Carlson asks if there is a location available with an existing building that could be used that’s empty. He explains that at the Village Market, inspectors come, but they simply waive the code violations. He says tenants have been beaten up when they complain about not having a working toilet. [He also says something about the Sabris raising the rent on a whim; when the tenants mention the lease agreement, the Sabris threaten them.] Carlson mentions Mohammed Mohammed, saying he is trying to organize the Somalis. Carlson mentions that the Certificates of Occupancy will be done this month [presumably for Chicago Commons].
Carlson says Zimmermann should take credit for relocating the Somalis and finding them a new mall. The topic of Carlson’s zoning application comes up, and Carlson tells Zimmermann, “I know you tried. I’ll help you out, I know you had lots of opposition [on City Council].” Zimmermann mentions a place near the light rail station on the west bank and says he thinks Sherman and Associates own it, near the Baja Riverside. Zimmermann says Carlson would have to build on it. Carlson explains that he can’t do that financially…he says something about “another guy” who started a Somali mall in St. Paul, and Basim [Sabri] gave him lots of trouble. He says he thinks there would be less chance of problems with a large developer like Sherman involved.
Carlson says it would be great if they could get this location established before the election. He says he’s trying to sell housing units [at Chicago Commons] with stabbings in the area every week. He says people are dealing drugs out of the souk, and they don’t even try to disguise it. He says there are five big crack houses on 10th Avenue, and drug dealings above the Skyway Market. He says the police raided the area but raided the wrong residence. He adds that Zimmermann would be a “hero” if he could relocate the mall. He says there are five major gangs on this corner, and all want a piece of the Somali drug market. Zimmermann says “so survival of this place depends on that market changing.” Carlson says there are 146 shops and a mosque at the Village Market. He says they need to look for a warehouse site, or another commercial area, with no residential housing in the area for crack dealers.
Carlson then says, “We did the five grand…I know you tried. What happened?” Zimmermann says the vote was mostly a result of reactions to the Mall and the desire for no more retail in the area. He says Schiff and Lilligren were hostile. Carlson says he met with Lilligren and proved it [the Sabris’ lack of involvement] to him, saying “we tried to pay $20,000 to put in a Weed and Seed, then suddenly he [Lilligren] wouldn’t talk to me.” Carlson says “Azzam and I used to be friends. He gave my wife his word….” He then says something about murders taking place in the area in the middle of the afternoon. He says something about Hamoudi [Sabri] doing the “typical Arab” thing, adding that Hamoudi owed him money and then threatened him when he didn’t pay Carlson. He asks Zimmermann, “How do Schiff and these guys get stuff through?”
Court recessed for lunch until 1:30
Before the jury returned to the courtroom, the judge mentioned that there had been requests from the media for transcripts of the audio and videotapes and for the tapes themselves [the jury, the prosecution, and the defense all received transcripts as the audio and videotapes were shown; these were not made available to anyone in the audience]. The judge mentioned a couple of judicial cases involving transcripts of tapes (one being the 1996 case with James McDougal). When asked, the prosecuting attorney said he didn’t want the tapes or transcripts released until the trial was over; the defense attorney objected to the release of the tapes (the video was too easy to cut out, he said) but he had no objection to the release of the transcripts. The judge exercised her discretion to deny access to the transcripts and all tapes until the case was over.
Once the jury entered the room and Carlson again took the witness stand, the prosecution returned to the issue of finding the Somalis a new mall. The prosecuting attorney started the videotape where it had left off before lunch recess.
Zimmermann says he’ll talk to the guys at Ryan, think about the arsenic triangle location, and says he knows the Somalis will need plenty of parking. Carlson asks if a new Somali mall would require Council approvals “and stuff.” Zimmermann says yes. He says most Somalis would get there [to the new mall] by car. Carlson says there’s no place to put them. Zimmermann says he’ll call Chuck Lutz and Ryan and tell them where the money is here. Carlson says he can show them documents that he owns 77 percent of the company and that his brother, Donald, owns 23 percent. He says Azzam [Sabri] was offered a share in the ownership initially, but he never came up with the money.
Zimmermann says he’s “gotta run,” and Carlson asks how the campaign is going. “Gonna win?” he asks. Zimmermann says it’s hard to know, then says something about Carlson being “maxed out” on donations. Carlson says he’ll find someone else [to donate to Zimmermann’s campaign]. Zimmermann gives Carlson more campaign donation envelopes. Carlson says, “We gotta get the Schiffs and Lilligrens out, you can’t run a city like that.” On the way out of the building Carlson tries to give Zimmermann the vest he’s wearing [I believe he said something about Zimmermann being able to use it on his bicycle]. Zimmermann declines and leaves.
In response to questions from Docherty, Carlson explained that Zimmermann had given him three campaign envelopes that he turned over almost immediately to the FBI. [Carlson had to have the FBI remove the recording equipment after each session with Zimmermann, but the equipment was on at all times between the meetings with Zimmermann and the meetings with the FBI to remove equipment.] The next meeting with Zimmermann was August 15, 2005. It was preceded by a phone call that was recorded and presented as Government Exhibit 32.
Fourteenth audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on August 15, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Carlson calls Zimmermann and mentions the site by the Baja as well as the site at 28th and Cedar. He tells Zimmermann he’d like to see the Baja site. He says his family has some campaign contributions, but says he’d like to view the site. Zimmermann explains that the site is owned party by Sherman, says it’s a tough one but it would make sense to do something there, since a lot of the Somalis live near there. Zimmermann also mentions another place near light rail but says it would require lots of money. He says it’s by the Cedar Box Company. Carlson hints that he could be enticed to invest there if he could “see a return and the city will allow me to do it with all this trouble.” He mentions something about the “Lilligren shit” and Zimmermann suggests they look at the West Bank site. They agree to meet at the Baja at 1:00.
The prosecution then turned to Carlson on the witness stand and asked him to recall who had the idea for the Somali mall. Docherty asked Carlson how much was his idea and how much came from Agents Kukura and Bisswurm. Carlson said he was instructed by the FBI about what to say to Zimmermann. Carlson then indicated that the FBI gave him back the campaign envelopes [originally given to him by Zimmermann at their August 3rd meeting] immediately before he was wired for the August 15th face-to-face meeting with Zimmermann. A videotape of that meeting was presented to the jury as Exhibit 33.
Third videotape: meeting with Zimmermann near the light rail station on West Bank on August 15th, 2005.
Zimmermann and Carlson arrive at the front door of the Baja, only to discover the restaurant has been closed. Shortly thereafter, Zimmermann receives a phone call from Jenny [presumably Heiser, his wife]: during the call he refers to Natalie, a list, and endorsers. He says, “Give her a call and make sure you both agree on what’s going out.” Carlson’s cell phone also rings, and he says something like “go head, Don…” The two get off their respective cell phones and the conversation between them begins. Zimmermann says something about George Sherman hanging out with Bartlett. Carlson says the Somalis are “tired of being terrorized.” Zimmermann mentions a bigger area at another location, next to the light rail station on Cedar. [I believe Carlson walked there while Zimmermann biked.]
Zimmermann tells Carlson this is Old Cedar Avenue, and he points out the bridge. He says the Cedar Box Company isn’t there for any real reason, except it’s always been there. Carlson points out that there’s no room for parking. Zimmermann says something about Amble’s and an “old junkyard thing.” Zimmermann points out that the “whole area is zoned for intense development” and says Carlson could fill the whole thing with underground parking….Carlson says it would need to be “structurally tough.” He says the Village Market is 70,000 square feet, and he estimates there to be about 44,000 square feet in an acre. Carlson says a two-story warehouse site would be good and adds “we’d need help getting zoning.”
Zimmermann then tells Carlson about the Roof Depot site, which he says is half empty. He says it’s “deceptively big,” and Carlson says “beautiful!” Zimmermann says “except parking,” and mentions that the Re-Use Center had some interest in the site. He said the parking might not be adequate for the Somalis’ needs. Zimmermann says all three sites are in his ward until the first of the year, when the ward will lose all of them due to redistricting. Carlson suggests Zimmermann could “get it through beforehand.”
Carlson then says “before I forget…these” and hands Zimmermann the campaign envelopes.
At this point the prosecuting attorney stopped the tape and turned to Carlson on the witness stand. In response to questioning, Carlson explained to the jury that he had handed Zimmermann four envelopes containing $100 bills, for a total of $1200 in cash.
Docherty resumed the videotape.
Carlson then mentions something about the names of relatives, cousins…he says they’ll identify. He says he gave them each a “little extra” and added that he needed more envelopes.
Again the prosecution stopped the tape, this time showing Carlson four envelopes. Docherty asked him if he recognized the names on the envelopes. The last names were identified for the jury as “Warsam,” “Ali,” “Mohamed,” and “Al-Kasim.” The envelopes were presented as Exhibits 34, 35, 36, and 37.
The prosecution then asked Carlson if he had a cousin by the name of Warsam and if he had given x a “little extra.” Carlson replied that the names on the envelopes had been supplied by the FBI.
Docherty resumed the videotape.
Carlson tells Zimmermann they need to look at whatever they can get the fastest, what they could buy up and get approved. He asks Zimmermann if the latter could cut parking in his ward near the Village Market, just to help [the idea here, I think, was to encourage patrons to come to the new Somali market Carlson is proposing]. He asks Zimmermann if he could get approval for that in his ward. Zimmermann suggests they could get the leases and move quickly.
Carlson then asks if Zimmermann knows Basim’s [Sabri’s] wife, Rochelle. Zimmermann says he does, and gossip follows. Carlson ends the conversation by saying he’s going to check out the Roof Depot site and see if the other half is available to rent. Zimmermann boards the train with his bike.
Docherty turned back to Carlson on the witness stand and asked him if he would have built the Somali mall he and Zimmermann were discussing, and Carlson said “probably not.” The defense attorney was offered an opportunity for questioning but replied “the conversation speaks for itself.”
After the meeting at light rail, Carlson left a voicemail message for Zimmermann on August 26th. The audiotape was introduced to the jury as Exhibit 38. Rather than play the audiotape, the judge recessed until a little after 2:30pm.
Fifteenth audiotape: voicemail message left by Carlson on August 26th, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Carlson asks Zimmermann to call him back, saying he had looked at the Roof Depot site. He added that the Somalis were anxious to get out [of the Village Market] and mentioned something about the campaign and ideas for parking.
This voicemail message was followed by a phone conversation between Carlson and Zimmermann on August 31st, 2005. The audiotape of this conversation is presented to the jury as Exhibit 39.
Sixteenth audiotape: phone conversation with Zimmermann on August 31st, 2005 (recorded with Agent Kukura or Agent Bisswurm)
Carlson appears to have called Zimmermann at home. He begins the conversation by saying he has worked 16 hours a day on the Chicago Commons site, but it’s almost finished. He tells Zimmermann he brought some of the Somalis over to the Roof Depot site, and they love it. He then talks awhile about the problems with the Village Market, saying someone let the dogs loose in the market [presumably this was a canine police unit], scaring many Somalis “to death.” He says the Somalis think Zimmermann is a hero. He tells Zimmermann that Karmel [another Sabri property] is having some of the same problems as the Village Market. He says the new Somali mall will be a good opportunity for Zimmermann’s campaign, and he arranges to meet Zimmermann at 2:00 that day at Zimmermann’s house at 2200 Clinton Avenue South.
Docherty then asked Carlson on the witness stand if Mohammed Mohammed was a real person. Carlson said yes; he worked for Wells Fargo, had difficulties with the Sabris, and had tried to organize the Somali shopkeepers. Carlson then explained to the jury that a “souk” was a type of open shopping mall with small vendors’ shops, much like those the Somalis had in their homeland.
The prosecution then introduced a videotape of the meeting at Zimmermann’s home on August 31st, 2005. It is introduced as Exhibit 40; a portion of it is played for the jury.
Fourth videotape: meeting with Zimmermann at his home at 2200 Clinton on August 31, 2005
Zimmermann is talking to someone on the phone when the videotape begins. He says something about figuring out ways “we’re not too oppressive with city regulations” and figuring out “limits on the size of sign you can have,” adding that it’s “nice looking” and he loves the picture. He says he’ll try to remember [something the caller and he have discussed], but if he “spaces it out…” He ends the phone call by saying “good luck in your business.”
Carlson begins speaking with Zimmermann, referring to Mohammed Mohammed and saying the situation “is accelerating over there. Somalis are desperate and frightened, they need someplace to go of their own, something Somali-run and managed.” He adds that he had “pumped you [Zimmermann] up about 20 knots” when he had last spoken with the Somalis.
Zimmermann says something about Lilligren “hiding out and knocking on doors and stuff.”
Carlson says he’s been getting phone calls from Somalis interested in renting space in the new Somali mall he and Zimmermann have been discussing. He refers to the canine incident and recent shootings in which two people had been wounded; he says the Somalis are scared to death. Carlson asks how big the space is, and Zimmermann says he doesn’t know.
Carlson says Zimmermann needs to meet with the shop owners and campaign. He says he told them they’ve got to keep Dean in. He says he can get together 150 Somali shop owners and Zimmermann can campaign [to them]. Zimmermann replies that the primary is scheduled for two weeks from yesterday.
Carlson says they need to get Zimmermann elected, then hands him an envelope and says “that’s for getting us the zoning over there.” [This envelope contains $1000 in the form of 10 $100 bills, given to Carlson by the FBI.]
Jenny Heiser, Zimmermann’s wife, comes in and Carlson asks for a campaign t-shirt. Carlson has a discussion with Heiser about line-drying their t-shirts and Heiser exits.
Zimmermann tells Carlson, “This guy down here [in the Ninth. Ward] is running against Schiff, Dave Bicking… This’ll be in his ward. He [Bicking] could use a little promotion, he’s got an uphill battle, but he’s got no relation with Hamoudi and those guys,” even though he met with the Sabris. One of them [I don’t recall if it was Zimmermann or Carlson] mentions Sheila Delaney, a candidate Hamoudi [Sabri] and his friends promoted, who withdrew from the race.
Carlson then says he thinks there are three people running in Zimmermann’s ward. Zimmermann replies by saying the “other guy” [other than Lilligren] is a “straw man we put up so there’ll be a primary.” He says the campaign wanted to have a primary to see “where we stood.”
Carlson says he’s investing time and money; he mentions the $1000 he just gave Zimmermann, and says “this shouldn’t be too hard, it’s an industrial area…keep a low profile until we can get the zoning through.” Carlson says he will ask Mohammed Mohammed to meet with Zimmermann, perhaps at their OR2 office space. Zimmermann suggests they meet at the Coyle Center on West Bank, and says something about it being a Park Board building. Carlson mentions something about Dave Esplund, a friend who has rented to Somalis and helped them with housing. They talk about meeting at 12:30 the next day. Carlson asks Zimmermann if he sees any obstacles to zoning in that area, and Zimmermann says “we’ll sell it by referring to the problems with the Sabris…this is delicate stuff…”
Carlson says “if this guy [Bicking] needs campaign money, you tell me. We’ve got to support people like that in this city.”
Someone named “Lee” enters at this point. Zimmermann asks Carlson about the “scuttlebutt” about Karmel [owned by Azzam Sabri, located around Lake Street and Pillsbury]. Carlson says a Sabri sister came in drunk, broke stuff up with a baseball bat. Carlson says something about Hamoudi being “a little on the criminal side,’ and more gossip follows. Zimmermann says “I’d better write that down, I might forget.” Carlson then complains that Lilligren won’t get back to him, saying he’s left him six messages. Zimmermann says that they [the Somalis] thought Carlson had helped the Sabris with that Market, telling Carlson “you’ve gotta let them know.” Zimmermann asks Carlson if he knows Shukri Aden.
At this point the prosecution stopped the tape and showed the jury Exhibit 41, a Green Party sample ballot. Shukri Aden’s name has been written on the ballot and a rectangle has been drawn around Dave Bicking’s name. In reply to questioning, Carlson told the jury that he had written Aden’s name on the ballot and Zimmermann had drawn the rectangle around Bicking’s name.
The prosecution resumed the tape.
At this point, Zimmermann breaks for a conversation with Heiser about someone named Hutchinson; they discuss campaign donations and the spelling of someone’s name. Once Heiser leaves, Carlson and Zimmermann resume the conversation about the Somalis. Zimmermann says “the problem is you don’t know who you’re talking to” [presumably referring to supporters of the Sabris]. Carlson says “Lilligren said he always voted against Sabri.” Zimmerman replies: “the problem is you’re seen as voting against the Somalis [when you vote against a Sabri project]. The problem is racketeering, it’s like they issue script and the script is good only at the company store. The question is, should the IRS be brought into this.” Carlson says that’s a good idea, since there’s lots of cash involved. He adds that if Zimmermann does this, he’ll “be seen as a big hero.” Zimmermann says “I supported the Somalis by getting these malls up and running; now I’ll do so by getting ‘em out from under this.”
Zimmermann then turns to Carlson and says, “If you could get Dave Bicking a couple of checks, it would be helpful. I don’t know if he’s prepared to take an envelope full of cash. You know, if you and your wife each gave him $300 each….” Carlson adds, “maybe a cousin?” Zimmermann says “I don’t know where he stands…”
The prosecution ended the tape and turned to Carlson on the witness stand. The next meeting with Zimmermann was at the Chicago Commons on September 8th; the purpose of that meeting was for the FBI to confront Zimmermann. In response to questioning, Carlson explained that he had a total of three untaped face-to-face encounters with Zimmermann before going to the FBI [one was at a groundbreaking ceremony at Portland and Franklin; one was at the Shriner’s; and I didn’t note the third, but I think it was when Azzam Sabri introduced Zimmermann and Carlson]. There were no untaped phone calls; Carlson had received instruction in how to connect the equipment in case Zimmermann called unexpectedly. Carlson explained that the rezoning of Chicago Commons was denied; to date he has sold only four condominiums and is in the process of returning ownership of the property to the bank.
The court recessed until 3:40 or so.
The defense began its cross-examination of Carlson by presenting several drawings of Chicago Commons: Exhibits 34 (showing the elevation of Elliott Avenue); 33 (showing the elevation and two facades); 32 (an overhead view of the street and alley); and 31 (an overhead, schematic view of the project). Carlson agreed with the defense’s description of each exhibit as a document prepared by “danna” or by the city for Chicago Commons. In response to Scott’s questions, Carlson agreed the project was “more European,” a mixed-use project containing retail and office space on the ground floor, with residential spaces above. Scott said “outside of downtown, you don’t see much of that,” except maybe at “Grand Avenue in St. Paul.” He added that Carlson thought he could “pull it off” economically because it was so close to Children’s and Abbott Northwestern, and Carlson said he thought the project was a good idea.
Scott asked Carlson if he thought the design for Chicago Commons was good for the city, and Carlson said he thought it was. Scott added that if anything, the project looked better than the drawings. He then asked if the building came right up to the sidewalk. Carlson said no; on Elliott, he said, there was 10-15 feet of lawn, with a small amount (4-5 feet) on Chicago. Scott asked if that was a different setback than the homes on Chicago Avenue, and Carlson said he didn’t think so.
Carlson said Chicago Commons encompasses 1.4 acres, about 70,000 square feet, with 81 condo units. The first floor was 33,000 sq. ft. of office space, and the condos were one or one plus bedrooms. He said they were designed for “urban people,” maybe those working at the hospitals nearby. The price of the condos would allow for those without medical degrees to live there (about $200,000 per unit).
Scott then referred to Defense Exhibit 32, which showed a building on site that was demolished to make room for Chicago Commons. He asked Carlson if the latter thought the property was “ripe for development,” adding that it looked lousy as it was. Scott then showed Exhibit 31, which had a rectangle at the center; Carlson explained that the rectangle was underground parking, with some green space at the center (“modernized courtyard”).
In response to questioning, Carlson agreed that he had been primarily a suburban builder prior to Chicago Commons. The defense then turned to the issue of zoning, showing Exhibit 10 dated May 4, 2004. This exhibit showed the original zoning as R2B; Carlson was requesting that the new project be zoned OR2, for high density. Scott asked Carlson if on May 3rd any old people were left in the nursing home [the old building that remained on the site when Carlson purchased it]; Carlson said he did not think so, but wasn’t sure. In the original zoning request, Carlson had asked for 17,860 feet of retail; the defense asked if his original plan wasn’t to have two retail shops. Carlson said they didn’t get that; instead he got approval for two sites facing Chicago (2800 and 1400 sq. ft.), about 1/6th. of his original request.
Carlson explained that Craig Poor (a city planner) had initially helped with the project zoning request (Carlson said at the time he was told he could secure two and then ask for more—so his plan all along was to ask for more later). Carlson said he thought his project, with “corner store” businesses, would improve the neighborhood. Scott then asked, “So the neighborhood association should have been able to see its value? Including Lilligren? So the fact you sought Zimmermann’s help was inherently a good thing for you and the city?” Carlson said he thought it was a good project.
Scott then provided some background for the jury, saying the Village Market was built on the site of the old Tasty Bread factory building, an industrial site located in the middle of a residential area. He asked Carlson if the Village Market had been up and running for a year or two when Carlson broke ground on Chicago Commons; he said there were only about 30 shops at the Village Market at the time (he and Azzam Sabri were friends then). Scott asked, “so it was over there even before you bought your first property?” and Carlson said yes. Scott then asked him if the Village Market had become a problem for him in particular, with parking all over the neighborhood. Carlson explained that there was no parking allowed at 24th. and Chicago anyway, and since his plan allowed for plenty of onsite parking, the parking issue didn’t pose a problem for him. Scott then asked if the “uptick in crime” and the area crowded with “foreigners” didn’t pose a problem for Carlson, making his customers nervous. Carlson said no, but he acknowledged that the Village Market, with all those people, might be perceived as “threatening.” Carlson referred to drug dealers and gang members in the area. Scott then asked him “so you decided, for the good of your project, to get the Village Market out, and it would be better for the neighborhood?” Carlson said no; he said he wanted more control exercised at the Village Market, over inspections and zoning issues, etc.
Scott asked Carlson if he had complained before May 2005 to Lilligren to get help with inspections and crime. “That’s their job [as City Council members], right? Would there be something wrong with contributing to the campaign of someone who did that for you?” Carlson replied no and referred to a fundraiser he had conducted at his home for Norm Coleman.
Scott told Carlson, “So you had a horrific experience with Building Inspections,” and Scott referred to the fact that Carlson had invited the mayor and some Metropolitan Council people to the groundbreaking ceremony for Chicago Commons. Carlson explained that neither the mayor nor the Met Council person had spoken at the groundbreaking. Scott said, “so you didn’t give money to the mayor, but you’re aware of how much money it takes to run a campaign, how important that is. By spring or summer 2005, you’d decided Lilligren was an impediment and not a help. Also Schiff was someone without a ‘vision’ for the future of Minneapolis. So nothing is inherently wrong in supporting someone who’d replace them; in fact, it would be the right thing to do to get those people out.” Carlson basically concurred.
The defense attorney continued, saying that most of what happened in August  was that you were trying to find another place for the new Somali mall, moving the souk to an area with less impact on the residents. Carlson explained that it was a theme drawn up by the FBI, but he still thought it was a good theory. Scott said, so the idea of the development at Franklin and 15th (Cedar Box) or the Sherman site on the West Bank, if you could finance one of those, it was a good idea. Carlson agreed, but reminded the jury that he had told Zimmermann he couldn’t finance the project. Scott said, so the Roof Depot site—you actually looked at it and decided it was ok, though there wasn’t enough parking. The Somalis would no longer be under exploitative landlords, the management would all be internal, and the souk would look much like the culture they had left in Somalia. Carlson agreed. Scott then said one of the reasons Carlson couldn’t tell how many people were renting at the Village Market, however, was because it did look like the culture the Somalis had left. “When you suggested the Somalis would love Zimmermann and vote for him if he could do that, that was truthful?” Carlson agreed.
Scott then asked Carlson to explain his characterization of his company as “8A”; Carlson said it meant a minority disadvantaged contractor. He explained that the company “did” security for Army Reserve stations, and as of 2004 they were moving out of residential and into commercial projects. Chicago Commons was their biggest project to date.
Carlson explained that he used to help finance housing (he had helped Azzam Sabri and had known him before 2001), but said they were out of that business by 2001. He said he bought the property at 2401 Chicago for $1.4 million, put some of his own money down.
The defense returned to the May 4 letter indicating Carlson had a purchase agreement in May but did not close until July. Prior to closing, however, he had his zoning application into the city; Carlson explained this was because he didn’t want to throw all that money into the project until he was sure the zoning would go through. Scott then asked if there was a connection between the name of the company (“danna”) and the name of Azzam Sabri’s daughter. Carlson said there was no connection.
Scott asked if Carlson had put the company in his wife’s name in order to secure privileged status as a minority contractor, and Carlson said the company was already in his wife’s name before then. Chicago Commons is a separate company from “danna,” one that was set up just for the purpose of acquiring and developing the property at 2401 Chicago Avenue South. Carlson said that was a normal practice for developers; he also said he and his brother, Don, owned the Chicago Commons company. He said Azzam Sabri was initially offered part ownership as a shareholder in the company, with an interest amounting to 23.5 percent ownership. Carlson said he secured a note from Azzam to pay; Scott asked him if they had brought Azzam in because “you thought he was able to get things done in Minneapolis, to maneuver through a complicated Minneapolis system. So he was accurate if he was saying he was a partner. To some degree, you didn’t want to know how he greased the skids.” Carlson denied that, saying he wanted to learn.
Scott then said that Azzam would say, “’I own these people.’ Did you take some of this as puffing, as part of the Middle Eastern personality? Is it fair to say you ‘let him loose’ on the details, delegating lots of authority to him?” Carlson suggested this might have been true in the beginning.
Scott then indicated that Carlson’s plan by the middle of July 2004 was to apply for OR2 zoning but put in more retail. The process of applying for rezoning was begun as early as January 2005; they were four months into construction when they wanted to change the zoning classification, and it took another three months before they got something “acceptable.” They closed on the property on June 8, 2004; by mid-July, they had zoning approval designs for OR2 (because the Planning department requires detailed plans before you can build). They started building during the first week of September—they started digging the hole. Scott suggested to Carlson that they had failed to secure a permit to block the city sidewalk or to vacate the alley, and had only one demolition permit. Carlson denied that. Scott then said isn’t it true that you had to go to the mayor’s office to get permits. Carlson said they never blocked the sidewalk, so that permit wasn’t needed; Scott countered by saying the city didn’t agree. Carlson explained they had had a construction trailer on the street for awhile; Scott said isn’t it true that the fire department said you needed a permit for that? Carlson said he didn’t know about the fire department. Scott suggested to Carlson that as a suburban builder, he really didn’t know how many hoops he had to jump through to build in the city. Carlson agreed that every day you’re not building costs you money, so it’s important to get a project built as soon as possible.
Scott asked Carlson if the project had incurred lots of penalties, and Carlson said no. Scott said didn’t a lawyer have to come in on February 3rd, 2005 and meet with people in the city (Licensing; David Helmuth, an attorney; Zoning and Planning staff). Carlson explained that the meeting was designed to “straighten the air,” saying the city staff had told him “’you Republicans think you’re going to get everything you want.’” Carlson said they would follow the process; someone else would come in and tell them they needed to change it. He said he told them, “just tell us what you want”; he then said that someone in the city had come to a meeting wearing a Wellstone shirt over a Hawaiian shirt, and had orange hair spray.
The defense then presented Exhibit 12, a sign-in sheet for a meeting with the city held on February 3, 2005. The prosecution objected to page 2 of this Exhibit, saying he didn’t know whose notes were written on page 2. (Only page 1 was admitted.) Among those list in attendance that day were Azzam Sabri, Carlson’s lawyer, and Carlson (he said they had come together); Fred Abadi (Planning), someone from Inspections, Tiffany Green (Lilligren’s aide), Lonnie Nichols, and Steve Poor. Scott explained that the meeting was requested by their lawyer, partly in response to a $20,000 bill they had received from the city. Carlson explained the bill included costs for trees on the site that the city assumed would be taken down (they weren’t); sidewalk usage/day (he suggested they didn’t need to block off the sidewalk); fees for the location of their sales trailer [I believe Carlson said it wasn’t parked on the street, which was what the city charge was for]; and a permit to remove a retaining wall (Carlson said they were “shoring up” the area; he said no permit was required to take out the wall, only to put one it—which they weren’t doing). Scott referred to Carlson’s approach to the removal of the alley as “loosey goosey,” and Carlson replied by saying the “process in Minneapolis is extremely dysfunctional.”
Court recessed until 9:30 Thursday, August 3, 2006
Once the jury was dismissed, the judge suggested she and the attorneys had some “housekeeping” to do: apparently the defense objected to the prosecution’s introduction of further evidence surrounding the “straw man” candidate the Zimmermann campaign had run in the primary. [Zimmermann admits in Government Exhibit 40 (the videotape recorded at Zimmermann’s house on August 31st, 2005) that his campaign had deliberately and knowingly run a “straw man” candidate, James Gorham, for the sole purpose of requiring a primary.]
The prosecution and the defense argued for and against the evidence based on their interpretations of “404B”; the judge said she’d rule on the issue in the morning. [Note: 404B relates to evidence that the defendant has committed a crime that s/he is not being charged for—“Proof of Uncharged Crimes, Wrongs, or Acts.” It was unclear to me whether running a fake candidate is actually a crime; the defense argued that additional evidence relating to the “straw man” was unrelated to the case. The prosecution seemed to argue that such evidence was relevant because it spoke to “intent” on Zimmermann’s part.]