CINCINNATI (WCMH) — The trial of Larry Householder, former Speaker of the Ohio House, in the most corrupt alleged bribery scheme in the state’s history, started Monday. The trial is being presided over by Judge Timothy S. Black in Federal Court in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Before opening statements began, Householder spoke with reporters in the courthouse, saying it has “been terrible waiting,” for the trial since he was first charged in the summer of 2020 and that he was excited to tell his side of the story.

Householder also said he has never been nervous or anxious about the trial and that didn’t change Monday, describing it as a “good thing.”

“You’re going to hear the truth and over six weeks, we are going to prove it,” Householder said. “It’s redemption. It has been really hard to be painted as a corrupt politician. It has been difficult on my family.”

Monday morning just before 10:30 a.m., the prosecution began its opening statement, which lasted just more than an hour, laying out its plan for the next few weeks and highlighting the $60 million dollars used to “pay for political and personal gain.”

“Larry Householder sold the Statehouse and ripped off the people he was elected to serve and made backroom deals to exchange his power for money,” prosecutor Emily Glatfelter told the 16-person jury. “Householder had an aggressive plan to become speaker.”

Glatfelter explained that the money FirstEnergy allegedly bribed Householder with was transferred through multiple 501(c)(4)s. She spent much of her opening explaining when payments were made and to what accounts. She also laid out what Householder allegedly spent the money on, including political and personal expenses.

“If it looked complicated, it is,” she said. “This is how to hide money.”

Glatfelter said the trial will focus on proving bribery and money laundering. She said the prosecution’s evidence will show a “pattern of racketeering.”

At the end of her opening statement, Glatfelter mapped out witnesses the prosecution will call:

  • Opinion witnesses, for example, an IRS employee to provide background of 501(c)(4)s.
  • Law enforcement witnesses, including an undercover FBI agent.
  • Witnesses involved in the case, like First Energy lobbyist Juan Cespedes and Householder’s political strategist Jeff Longstreth.
  • Agents of defendants, like Megan Fitzmartin, former chief campaign operative of Householder, who is now policy/communications director for the Republican House Caucus.
  • Others, including legislators ‘pressured to vote for HB6,’ and a contractor for Householder’s Florida home.

Glatfelter said the prosecution will also provide digital evidence, like calendar entries, phone calls, wiretaps, emails, and texts.

“What matters is HB6 was corrupt legislation,” Glatfelter said. “This case is not about party affiliation, energy policy, or campaign ads.”

Householder told reporters he is “not worried” about anything that will come from the wire recordings. Counsel for Householder also said they are “feeling great” about their case.

During opening statements, Householder’s defense said Householder did not support House Bill 6 as part of a corrupt agreement, but because he believed it benefited all Ohioans. 

“Larry didn’t support HB6 as part of some corrupt agreement,” Steven Bradley said. “What motivated him to support it was the importance of many of the things contained in HB6.”  

Bradley said that contributions that were made by FirstEnergy were nothing out of the ordinary.  

“All these contributions amounted to ordinary political contributions,” Bradley said. “None of these political contributions were made in exchange by explicit agreement by Larry that he would make legislation beneficial to First Energy.”  

Householder’s defense maintains his not guilty pleas. 

“The government (prosecution) has simply got it wrong,” Bradley said. “The evidence you will hear during this trial will show that Larry was never engaged in criminal racketeering.”  

Borges, a lobbyist and the former state Republican Party chairman, is two of five men, including Householder, who has pleaded not guilty in the case. 

“There is a universe of difference between Matt Borges and everyone else you’ll hear about in this case,” Borges’ defense said.

Borges, a lobbyist and the former state Republican Party chairman, is two of five men, including Householder, who has pleaded not guilty in the case.

In October 2020, two of the five operatives – lobbyist Juan Cespedes and longtime Householder political strategist Jeffrey Longstreth – pleaded guilty to racketeering and admitted to conspiring with Householder, Borges, and Generation Now to help pass HB 6. Representatives with Generation Now followed suit months later. 

Former lobbyist and budget director for the Ohio Republican Caucus Neil Clark, who was also implicated in the scandal, died by suicide in March 2021.

Borges’ defense was largely used to try and separate Borges from Householder and other players in the case.

Todd said the $15,000 payment Borges did make was for an unrelated project down the line.

Following opening statements, the first witness — an Ohio State University professor, Dr. Noah Dormady, who helped provide background information to the jury about energy policy — took the stand. 

Black emphasized to the jury, that they have not seen any evidence yet, saying opening statements are a “road map” of what to expect these next several weeks and Dr. Dormady’s testimony is for background purposes only.  

On Tuesday the prosecution says it expects to call experts to the stand to explain what a 501(c)(4) is and the FBI agent who investigated the case.