COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Thursday struck a major blow to Ohio’s former Speaker of the House, who maintained his innocence throughout the investigation of the state’s largest corruption case.
A U.S. District Court jury found former speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges guilty of racketeering, for their part in taking $60 million in bribes from FirstEnergy. The power company used the money to incentivize Householder to pass House Bill 6, a billion-dollar bailout for its nuclear plants.
The verdict makes four total convictions related to the pay-to-play scheme. However, with sentencing still ahead for Householder and Borges as well as more pending litigation, the HB 6 scandal case is far from finished.
Civil lawsuit piles on criminal case
On Friday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said his office was now taking aim at the people involved in the scandal.
“With the federal prosecution complete, the state of Ohio’s racketeering lawsuit, which already stopped the implementation of HB 6, should now be able to resume,” Yost said.
Yost was referencing a civil lawsuit he filed Sept. 23, 2020, nearly two and a half years before Householder and Borges saw trial. His office aimed to freeze HB 6 money from moving in any way, and while that would happen alongside further repeals of the legislation, a judge halted Yost’s lawsuit while the federal case proceeded. Before agreeing to halt the case, the attorney general also stopped FirstEnergy from collecting $102 million in fees from customers that it was allowed to bill for under HB 6.
Now that Householder and Bordes’ case has only sentencing and possible appeals left, Yost asked Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Chris Brown to lift the stay on discovery in his lawsuit. This would allow his office to collect documents and interview witnesses before moving toward a civil trial. Yost added that his lawsuit’s discovery may uncover additional suspects who participated in Householder’s pay-to-play scheme.
To view his office’s filing to lift the stay, click here.
Sentencing for Householder, Borges
Former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers sat down with Nexstar’s NBC4 to weigh what Householder and Borges could see as punishment for the criminal case. Neither of the pair has had a sentencing date scheduled as of Friday, but could each face up to 20 years in prison for the federal racketeering charges.
“The federal sentencing guidelines are structured such that you take into account certain things,” DeVillers said. “Now the amount of loss is one of the things you look at, and it depends on what Judge Black will look at. Is it the bribery of $61 million, or is it the bribery of $1 billion?
The former U.S. attorney added that a key factor could differentiate Householder and Borges when that date finally comes.
“The other one is the position of public trust,” DeVillers said. “Larry Householder clearly had a position of public trust, Matt Borges did not. So you will probably see a different sentence between them.”
DeVillers said even further, it’s possible more indictments are coming in the investigation. He did not mention any names, but Yost’s office did hint that it could find them if its civil lawsuit is permitted to move forward.
While the FBI raided the German Village home of Sam Randazzo, the former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio with ties to FirstEnergy, he was never charged in the case. Householder’s political adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, and lobbyist and “key middleman” Juan Cespedes, each took plea deals in October 2020, after being charged for their involvement.
A fifth original suspect, lobbyist Neil Clark, was found dead near his Florida home after being charged in the HB 6 scandal. He had pleaded not guilty.