CINCINNATI, Ohio (WCMH) – A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder to 20 years in prison for helping orchestrate the largest public corruption scandal in state history.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black announced Householder’s sentence, three months after the ousted speaker was convicted on federal racketeering charges for accepting a $60 million bribe from Akron-based FirstEnergy, in exchange for passing a $1.3 billion ratepayer-funded nuclear power plant bailout and squashing a referendum effort against it. In a scathing speech before the court, Black said Householder “conned the people of Ohio and then tried to con the jury, too.”
“Those voters deserved a representative who would look out for them, and you took that away,” Black told Householder. “And then there’s the money. How many scholarships could that have provided? How many small businesses could that have helped? How many lives could that have improved? But you took that money and handed it over to thieves with private jets.”
Black said Householder was “unequivocally false” when he took the stand in his own corruption trial to deny allegations made against him. Householder understood he was being bribed by FirstEnergy “without any objection,” Black said.
“To say that inaccuracies in Householder’s testimony created confusion defies logic,” Black said before announcing the sentence. “He seemed to remember everything else in his career but when it came to this case, he asked this court to believe he was completely flummoxed. I don’t buy it.”
Last week, federal prosecutors requested Householder receive a 16- to 20-year prison sentence “for causing immeasurable damage to the institution of democracy in Ohio, through his direction of a criminal enterprise,” according to court filings. The former speaker’s defense attorneys, however, asked for a lighter one-year sentence.
During a seven-week trial that culminated in two guilty verdicts, prosecutors told jury members that over a three-year period – from 2017 to 2020 – FirstEnergy and its affiliates paid Householder’s dark money group Generation Now and other entities $60 million in bribes.
In exchange, Householder and other operatives worked behind the scenes to pass House Bill 6 and other legislation favorable to the energy company.
“The payments from FirstEnergy allowed Householder to fund his political operations, pay his staff, reward ‘casket carriers’ and enrich himself and his conspirators,” prosecutors wrote in a June 22 court filing. “For Householder, the money was the vehicle to political power, and it enabled him to build and maintain his political machine, and ultimately become Speaker.”
At Thursday’s sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Glatfelter pushed back on Householder’s claims that he supported House Bill 6 because it was good legislation — not because he was bribed.
“Even if HB 6 was a good piece of legislation, that does not diminish the fact that it was corrupt legislation,” Glatfelter said.
But prior to the sentencing announcement, Householder’s defense attorney Stephen Bradley urged Black against imposing a 20-year sentence. Doing so, he said, would effectively amount to a “life sentence” for the 64-year-old defendant and ignore “all of those good acts” the former speaker engaged in for decades.
“Mr. Householder is a disgraced politician, and his name has been dragged through the mud by the media for years,” Bradley said. “All of that is on display for Ohio and the entire country, and all of that would serve as deterrence for any other politicians.”
Bradley also urged Black to consider the harm that Householder’s sentencing will bear on his wife and five children. But Black interjected: “The harm to his family was caused by him — not by the court.”
Householder, without apologizing for the crime, took the stand to talk about his decades of public service and original plan to retire from the legislature on his 65th birthday. He urged Black to consider his family — including his wife Taundra, who is “now faced with the reality” that she’ll have to continue to work the rest of her life.
“I will be in a cold cell, hours away and two people who have spent their lives as one for years will now be forced to live it apart,” Householder said. “The question is, ‘Who really pays the price?’ Regretfully, it isn’t me. The people who actually pay the price are those who I love.”
Prior to Householder and Borges’ trial, two other Ohio political operatives, longtime Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth and lobbyist Juan Cespedes, took plea deals in 2020 for their involvement in the case. A fifth defendant, lobbyist Neil Clark, died by suicide in 2021.
Former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, also convicted in the scandal, is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.
Attorney General Dave Yost is pursuing a separate civil lawsuit against Householder, FirstEnergy, former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio leader Sam Randazzo and others implicated in the HB 6 scandal.