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Attorneys deliver opening statements in trial of Larry Householder, Matt Borges

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Andy Chow
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Larry Householder, former Ohio House speaker, walks into the Potter Stewart United States Court House in Cincinnati on Jan. 23, 2023.

U.S prosecutors told a jury Monday that they will see evidence that proves Larry Householder and Matt Borges took part in a conspiracy for personal and political gain through bribery and money laundering.

Householder, former Ohio House speaker, and Borges, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist and former Ohio Republican Party chair, were in a federal court house in Cincinnati for opening statements in their trial.

Both face racketeering charges and are accused of playing certain roles in a bribery scheme that saw $61 million flow to dark money groups to help Householder become speaker in exchange for passing and protecting a $1 billion nuclear power plant bailout for FirstEnergy’s nuclear power plants.

In her opening statement, Emily Glatfelter, assistant U.S. attorney, showed the jury a spreadsheet detailing each time FirstEnergy sent money to Generation Now – the 501(c)4 allegedly operated by Householder.

"Larry Householder sold the Statehouse," Glatfelter said.

She said Householder would use that money to help his political allies and bolster support for House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout bill.

“Each time he needed money, Householder went to the bank: FirstEnergy,” said Glatfelter.

Glatfelter said co-defendants Juan Cespedes, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist and Jeff Longstreth, a former political strategist for Householder, are expected to testify as well as former Householder associates Anna Lippincott and Megan Fitzmartin.

Steven Bradley, Householder’s attorney, began his opening statement by saying “the government simply got it wrong.”

He delivered a biography of Householder’s political career — from his time in local office to his first term as Ohio House speaker in the early 2000’s.

Bradley said, when Householder wanted to seek the speakership again for 2019, he started formulating a plan that included supporting political allies through primaries, as he did the first time he became speaker.

Bradley consistently painted Householder as a political outsider who found success over and over again. When it came to House Bill 6, Bradley said Householder pushed for the legislation because he believed the policies were the right thing for Ohioans.

Bradley said there was no quid pro quo for Householder to pass House Bill 6.

“You will see and hear no evidence of such an agreement,” Bradley said. “Larry was never bribed to advance this legislation.”

As for Borges, his attorney Todd Long said “There is a universe of difference between Matt Borges and everyone else you’re going to hear about in this case.”

After HB 6 passed in 2019, a group started to collect signatures to put a referendum of the bill on the ballot for voters to decide if they wanted to repeal the law.

Borges is accused of paying a political consultant for that referendum group $15,000 in exchange for information about the campaign to repeal the nuclear power plant bailout.

Long said Borges and the political consultant, Tyler Fehrman, had a mentor/mentee relationship. Long said Borges gave the money to Fehrman to “front load” a new project he wanted Fehrman to work on after the referendum campaign, that was completely separate from the work he was doing at the time.

Long detailed the events that led to Borges working on the anti-referendum campaign for FirstEnergy Solutions as a political consultant contractor.

He also tried to create separation between Borges and Householder.

“In fact they don’t even really like each other,” said Long.

Before opening statements, Householder spoke to reporters inside the court room. He said that he is “relieved” that the trial has started and that the past couple of years have been hard on him and his family.

“I’ve been waiting two and a half years to tell my story and now I get the chance,” Householder said.

When asked what the jury will hear from his defense team, Householder said, “You’re going to hear the truth. And over the next six weeks we’re going to provide the truth.”

Borges also said he was happy for the trial to start.

Follow: Scroll through the timeline detailing the events that led up to the trial.

Contact Andy at achow@statehousenews.org.