Former US Attorney Speaks Out On Ohio Corruption Cases, BSGU Hazing Probe
The chief prosecutor in the cases involving Republican former House Speaker Larry Householder and suspended Democratic Cincinnati City Councilmember PG Sittenfeld is speaking out about the work he did, after stepping down at the request of President Biden last month.
Former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers said more new indictments and charges are possible in the case involving the nuclear bailout law and former Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and the case involving Cincinnati City Council and suspended member P.G. Sittenfeld, a Democrat.
In an interview for "The State of Ohio", DeVillers said there’s still plenty of corruption out there, but he hopes these big cases will deter people in power who might ever consider exchanging money for a deal.
"I hope that these investigations and prosecutions coming to light really kind of help the next generation of politicians and public servants," DeVillers said. "And that, you know, the idea that you can accept money with a 'wink, wink, nudge, nudge' promise to do something that in your capacity as a politician or as a public servant for money - whether it's going into pockets or whether it's going into your campaign fund - if you're making that promise in return for it, that's a crime is a federal crime, always has been. And I think that that culture of people coming into service thinking, 'oh, this is the way it's supposed to be', hopefully now realize that it's not."
DeVillers said it usually takes nine months to a year to go from indictment to trial. But COVID has shut down court proceedings, which means it’ll take longer than usual before a resolution in these high-profile cases.
In July, when announcing the arrests of Householder and four others and the involvement of a dark money group and a utility widely believed to be FirstEnergy, DeVillers said the $60 million case was "likely the largest bribery and money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio."
Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges have both said they're innocent. Two other defendants and the dark money group Generation Now have struck plea deals. FirstEnergy is the target of several investigations. And last week, lobbyist Neil Clark, who had also said he was not guilty, was found dead in a wooded area near his home in Florida, with his gun nearby.
DeVillers was the first public figure to announce Clark's death - at a meeting of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel Governing Board.
DeVillers said he's offered condolences to Clark's family, and that "the case will will go forward with the other the other co-defendants. It's a tragic event, but the investigation and prosecution will continue."
DeVillers has also been appointed to look into the alleged hazing death of Bowling Green State University sophomore Stone Foltz. He died earlier this month after an off-campus event organized by Pi Kappa Alpha which reportedly involved a large amount of alcohol.
DeVillers said Bowling Green is a state university, but also state investigators have some power to go beyond what local law enforcement can do.
"There are a lot of different things that they can look into are beyond criminal matters, not the least of which is to try to either avoid something like this or mitigate the possibility of it happening again. And there's code violations, school code violations and some other matters.”
DeVillers said he wanted to stay on as U.S. Attorney, but left along with 55 others in a mass resignation requested by President Biden last month. He's now at a Columbus law firm.
There's a history of former federal prosecutors and former U.S. attorneys running for office – Chris Christie, Eliot Spitzer, Rudy Giuliani, Doug Jones and Dick Thornburg, to name a few. Might DeVillers join them?
"I'd love to be an office holder. I just want to run for office. I don't know the concept of raising money," DeVillers said. "I understand it's what you have to do and to to to to do that. And it's not something that that I'm built for."
Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau