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Racketeering trial against former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder begins Friday

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder leaves the federal courthouse after an initial hearing following charges against him and four others alleging a $60 million bribery scheme Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete

The racketeering trial for Larry Householder, former Speaker of the Ohio House, is set to begin on Friday.

Householder, former FirstEnergy lobbyist Matt Borges, and three other men, consultant Jeff Longstreth and lobbyists Juan Cespedes and Neil Clark, were accused of running a criminal enterprise that took $61 million in bribes from FirstEnergy, an Akron-based Fortune 500 company, in order to put Householder in power and pass a nuclear power plant bailout bill in 2019. The law accomplished several legislative goals for FirstEnergy, including a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants.

Borges, who is also a former Ohio Republican Party chair, is accused of offering a bribe in exchange for information on a group that was trying to put HB6 up for a vote to be repealed.

Federal prosecutors said Householder operated a dark money group that received millions of dollars from FirstEnergy.

Two-and-a-half years ago, federal investigators charged the five men for alleged racketeering crimes connected to what has been called the biggest political corruption case in Ohio history.

In June of 2021, in a historic vote, the Ohio House voted 75-21 to expel Householder.

Former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, the prosecutor who brought the charges in the House Bill 6 scandal, spoke about the case on "All Sides with Ann Fisher." He said the outcome of the trial could come down to jury instructions. "If the jurors follow the jury instruction, and they will, and Judge Black is an excellent judge, and he will have the jury instructions down, and that's a big part of this case. And if they follow through with everything, then the prosecution definitely has a good chance."

Both Householder and Borges have maintained their innocence. Longstreth and Cespedes pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors. Clark died by suicide in March of 2021.

The trial is expected to last about four weeks.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.
Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.