CINCINNATI (WCMH) – The jury in Ohio’s largest corruption case has reached a verdict.
Former Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder, and former state Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges were both accused of taking a $60 million bribe from FirstEnergy to pass a bailout bill for the power company’s nuclear plants. Formally, prosecutors charged them with racketeering.
The jury presented its verdict before the court at 2 p.m. Thursday. Householder has been found guilty, after previously maintaining his innocence in the reported pay-to-play scheme. He told members of the media before the trial that he had been excited to tell his side of the story. Borges, who also pleaded not guilty, was found guilty.
Kenneth Parker, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, shared a statement on the verdict after his office prosecuted the case.
“Larry Householder illegally sold the statehouse, and thus he ultimately betrayed the great people of Ohio he was elected to serve,” Parker said. “Matt Borges was a willing co-conspirator, who paid bribe money for insider information to assist Householder. Through its verdict today, the jury reaffirmed that the illegal acts committed by both men will not be tolerated and that they should be held accountable.”
Closing arguments wrapped up Tuesday, where prosecutors reminded the jury of FirstEnergy’s $60 million contributions to Generation Now, a 501(c)(4) labeled as a dark money group funneling cash to Householder. The former speaker’s defense attorneys, on the other hand, maintained that Householder urged the passage of the legislation because he believed in it, not because he was bribed.
In what some lawyers called atypical, Householder also took the stand and testified in his own defense during the trial. He denied dining with FirstEnergy executives during a 2017 trip to Washington D.C., where many of the pay-to-play talks allegedly happened. Prosecutors hit back with a compilation of calls, emails and text messages between himself, FirstEnergy representatives and other politicians, which included alleged pressure on getting the bailout passed, and thanks after it did.
Since January, the trial has navigated a complex paper trail that documented the relationships Householder and Borges established with FirstEnergy executives, and a pattern of contributions through Generation Now to the former speaker. The court proceedings also saw delays when a juror tested positive for COVID-19.
Prior to Householder and Borges’ trial, two other Ohio political operatives — Jeffrey Longstreth and Juan Cespedes — took plea deals in 2020 for their involvement in the case. Longstreth was a longtime political adviser to ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Cespedes was a lobbyist who investigators described as a “key middleman.”