Former councilman Long testifies at DiMatteo hearing |

Former councilman Long testifies at DiMatteo hearing

Cole Mayer

Mountain DemocratGino DiMatteo enters a Placerville court room Monday.

PLACERVILLE –Gennaro “Gino” DiMatteo appeared in court Monday afternoon for what was supposed to be a motion hearing but instead saw his own attorney testifying.

Attorneys Ted Long and Roland Tiemann were under the impression that the hearing was to be about a motion that had been filed, but El Dorado County Judge Douglas C. Phimister instead said, as a visiting judge had set bail, he would need to evaluate the information for himself. DiMatteo’s bail had been set for $50,000, but Phimister had pondered $1 million or $5 million.

Long, however, voiced his displeasure that the issue of bail had been put off already and that his client had spent another weekend in jail. He said his client “was arrested 10 days ago” and that he had “been swept off to Placerville” from South Lake Tahoe, when the jail in Tahoe was only three blocks away.

DiMatteo, the former operator of the City of Angels 2 medical marijuana dispensary, was arrested on Aug. 31 and has been charged with four felony counts, including bribery and possession of marijuana for sale. Prosecutors have investigated South Lake Tahoe City Councilwoman Angela Swanson’s involvement in a donation DiMatteo made to the Lake Tahoe Educational Foundation as part of the bribery charge.

During Monday’s hearing, Long said the proceedings so far had all been held “for the convenience of everyone but the man in the 6-by-6 cell.” He noted the visiting judge had accepted the $50,000 bond and that Long was ready to post bail. Using the opinion written for Bandy v. United States (1960) by Supreme Court Justice Douglas, Long said that bail any higher would be excessive, and that the district attorney was “making stuff up” to keep DiMatteo incarcerated.

Phimister again said that he would hold a hearing on bail on Sept. 12, but Long noted he was going on vacation on Sept. 11 with his family, and, although he was willing to cancel the trip, it wouldn’t be fair to him nor to keep DiMatteo in jail any longer.

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“You are asking me to rule on something … I have not read,” Phimister replied. “I will not rule until I have read the transcript (of the previous bail hearing).”

Long began making arguments about paying bail, to which Phimister told Long that he could testify. Long agreed and was sworn in, waiving rights to privacy, as the hearing would now be about his personal finances.

Under questioning from Tiemann, Long noted that he was licensed to practice law in 1967 and is still in good standing. He noted that he had served two terms on the South Lake Tahoe City Council, had been a member of LAFCO and had been on 20 or 30 other committees. He said he owned his own home and a few rental properties and has a brokerage license. He was last year’s El Dorado County Grand Jury foreman, and had served on the Grand Jury three times – including with deputy district attorney James Clinchard, the prosecutor of DiMatteo’s case. Long called himself a “champion for the little guys.”

He also spoke of DiMatteo, how his client owns a business, Push Fitness, that grosses $1 million each year and his employees respect him, gathering about $3,000 to help pay bail. In documents filed with the court, some employees included letters attesting to DiMatteo’s good character. Long said he knows and respects DiMatteo, and that the only gift Long had received from DiMatteo in knowing him for three months was a free gym membership.

Under cross-examination, Long testified he had brokered DiMatteo purchasing Push Fitness about two months ago and had also been asked for business advice. He helped DiMatteo connect with the community, such as local high school wrestling and football teams. Long noted he had “no interest” in any money made. His only hopes were for recognition in the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

DiMatteo, Long noted, also manages a medical marijuana dispensary. As DiMatteo’s civil attorney, Long filed a claim on his client’s behalf for the dispensary when the City Council revoked its license.

Long said that he was “totally willing to not get (the bail money) back,” but he believed that DiMatteo would “make it right” afterward.

Clinchard also spent time with Long poring over bank statements, looking at accounts, and verifying that the money that had been deposited in Long’s account had been from his renters.

Tiemann again confirmed with Long that all of the money deposited came from investments and that no money had come from DiMatteo.

Long was excused, and, despite the goal of Long testifying to not have a bail hearing Wednesday, Phimister continued the hearing, now a pre-prelimary instead of preliminary, to Sept. 12 as he had two motions to rule on. He would also need to inquire with the presiding judge in South Lake Tahoe over whether the case could be transferred.

– Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter Adam Jensen contributed to this story.

– Editor’s note: Following publication of this story South Lake Tahoe City Clerk Susan Alessi clarified that Ted Long served one four-year term as a city councilman, from December 2004 to December 2008.

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