CINCINNATI (WCMH) — The prosecution and defense have rested in the case of Ohio’s biggest corruption scandal after co-defendant and former Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder took the stand for the second day to tell his story to a 14-person jury.
Householder faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of racketeering in a multi-million-dollar scheme to pass nuclear bailout legislation for FirstEnergy.
Householder’s defense spent the first hour of Thursday morning wrapping up their direct questioning of Householder, followed by a few questions from the attorneys for Matt Borges former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party and Householder’s co-defendants
In questioning Householder, Borges’ defense attempted to separate their client from the scandal. Householder confirmed that Borges was not at the meeting where he received a $400,000 check from FirstEnergy.
Householder was asked if he is friends with Borges, and he said no.
“He’s a country club Republican, I am more of a country Republican,” Householder said.
The prosecution reminded Householder multiple times that he was under oath. They started their cross examination asking Householder about his January 2017 trip to Washington, where many of the pay-to-play talks allegedly happened.
On Wednesday, Householder testified that he never went to dinner with FirstEnergy players and was back to his hotel early in the night, but the prosecution showed time-stamped photos that suggest Householder was with the then-Senior Vice President of FirstEnergy Mike Dowling at the time.
FBI Special Agent Blane Wetzel testified that metadata from photos place Dowling, Householder’s son and other FirstEnergy players in a limo outside a steakhouse Householder denies going to. The prosecution also showed a call log showing Householder made six calls to Dowling during the trip, with Dowling calling him once.
Householder also testified he did not see then-CEO of FirstEnergy Chuck Jones. But the prosecution showed hotel bookings for Householder and Jones at the same Washington, D.C. hotel, made minutes apart by the same person.
Once House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout bill, passed and a referendum effort was under way, a text from Jones read, “Larry is ready to do new legislation immediately if they turn in signatures.”
“I talked to him, yeah I suppose,” Householder said when the prosecution asked if he talked to Jones about a plan for new legislation.
Householder testified that he was “absolutely” in contact with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to ask him for legal advice about the bill and whether it was a tax. But the prosecution said when the FBI retrieved Householder’s phone, call logs between him and Yost were deleted.
“I generally delete as much as I can off my telephone because I don’t like to pay storage costs, excess costs,” Householder said. “I didn’t delete these calls because I was trying to conceal them.”
As far as Generation Now, the 501(4)(c) account that was allegedly used to hide spending and donations in the bribery scheme, Householder said he knew the account existed, but denied knowledge of illegal activity.
“I thought it was formed to educate the public about issues important to me and Ohio, and to support candidates who support those issues,” Householder testified.
The prosecution asked Householder if there were consequences for people who did not contribute to his campaign or support his bid for speakership against Rep. Ryan Smith.
“I can’t think of any consequences,” Householder said.
In a recording, Householder is heard, in part, saying “We can f*** them over later.”
“It sounds like I was referring to a donor or donors of Ryan Smith’s candidates,” Householder said on the stand.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday, after which the jury will enter deliberation.