Dozens of companies, AG Yost, former lawmakers subpoenaed ahead of Householder corruption trial

By: - January 11, 2023 5:00 am

Former House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford. Source: Ohio General Assembly.

The following article was originally published on News5Cleveland.com and is published in the Ohio Capital Journal under a content-sharing agreement. Unlike other OCJ articles, it is not available for free republication by other news outlets as it is owned by WEWS in Cleveland.

 

In newly-filed documents, federal prosecutors outlined some of the evidence they want to bring against former Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives Larry Householder.

In the federal government’s trial brief, filed Friday in District Court, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker provided a summary of the evidence against Householder and Matthew Borges, who are both accused of bribery and money laundering.

House Bill 6 is one of, if not the biggest political corruption scandal in Ohio’s history.

“The H.B. 6 scandal is something that should embarrass all of us,” Case Western Reserve University law professor and constitution expert Jonathan Entin said.

On Jan. 23, the public will learn how and why FirstEnergy paid $60 million to the nonprofit Generation Now, which was allegedly controlled by Householder. The speaker is accused of working with former GOP leader Matt Borges to pass a billion-dollar bailout for the struggling nuclear power company.

Householder and Borges were two of five people arrested back in 2020. House operative Jeff Longstreth and lobbyist Juan Cespedes both pleaded guilty in the case. Longtime lobbyist Neil Clark died by suicide.

Entin explained what evidence the prosecutors want to bring to jurors and what they believe should be left out.

Included

The government began by making sure the court has all of the verifications that the evidence the prosecutors gathered by subpoena was authenticated.

One of the largest provisions the government is asking for is that statements from co-conspirators should be allowed in court, even if the individual is not testifying or hasn’t been charged.

The government is also trying to put forward evidence gathered publicly, like a political ad that attacked a politician with money paid for by the Hardworking Americans Committee and posted by an account from The Strategy Group. There is also a recorded conversation between Householder and another individual charged.

Summary exhibits should also be considered admissible by the court, meaning summaries of phone records could be used, the government asserted.

The government also will provide transcripts of recordings of phone calls and in-person meetings.

Excluded

The government doesn’t want “inappropriate arguments” to be made during opening statements so that everything can stay objective.

It is also asserting that some tactics the defense may try aren’t legitimate — such as using the good faith defense, which would argue Householder and Borges didn’t know they were doing something illegal.

Any and all merits of H.B. 6 will be found irrelevant since this is a public corruption trial — not about the specific bill, the government added.

The suicide of Clark should not be raised.

“[The defense] will want to say ‘we didn’t do anything, it was these other folks who did the things,’ to try to show guilt,” according to Entin.

“The conditions that lead someone to take his own life are complex and deeply personal,” the government said. “His decision makes no pertinent fact in this case more or less probable, and his decision is of no consequence in deciding the guilt of his coconspirators.”

To make sure that the defense understands what constitutes a witness to good conduct, there should be limits on the number of character witnesses, the government argued in its trial brief filing.

Subpoenas

When asked by OCJ/WEWS why some of the alleged major players haven’t been subpoenaed yet, Entin responded with options.

“It could mean that the government believes that it has a strong enough case to go forward against the defendants,” he said.

Another possibility is that the government doesn’t have a strong enough case, actors are cooperating and giving information without an order or prosecutors are still investigating specific individuals.

OCJ/WEWS asked Gov. Mike DeWine if he had been subpoenaed in the scandal, and if he hadn’t, if he was anticipating being subpoenaed. He responded “no” to both questions.

Attorney General Dave Yost, as well as a few former lawmakers, have been subpoenaed. The new documents revealed that more than 30 companies had as well.

Subpoenaed companies

Records from the following companies were subpoenaed: Allen, Stovall, Neuman, Fisher & Ashton LLP; Apple, Inc.; Amalgamated Bank; Arena Online; AT&T; Centric Bank; CGI Investigation, LLC; Charles Schwab; Crossroads Media; Discover Products, Inc; Fifth Third Bank; FirstEnergy; First National Bank of Pennsylvania; Forcht Bank, NA; Google; FPI Strategies, LLC; Huntington National Bank; JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A.; Mighty Group; Nordic Construction; Ohio AFL-CIO; Partners for Progress, Inc.; Paychex, Inc.; PNC Bank, N.A.; Red Maverick Media; Storytellers Mail, LLC; The Community Bank; The Union Bank; T-Mobile; United Bank and Verizon Wireless.

Forensic extractions of cell phones were also conducted and provided to the court during pre-trial discovery, according to the document.

Once looking inside each of the subpoenas, the government was clearly looking for specific people or organizations. The companies just signed the authenticity form and didn’t spell out the records, except Huntington.

Records given to the government

Jeffrey Longstreth, who ended up pleading guilty, had his name come up numerous times in the Huntington records.

Each of the following had numerous or extensive documents given.

JPL & Associates had their deposits, checking statements, checks and withdrawals and wire transfers.

Ohio Precious Metals Association Inc., John Longstreth and Constant Content Co. had a significant amount of information given, including wire transfers, some of which weren’t dated, safe deposit box access and canceled checks.

Right Digital LLC had wire transfers, deposits and statements given.

Hardworking Ohioans, one of the major so-called dark money groups whose creator is still a working lobbyist at the Statehouse, had wire transfers, deposits and withdrawals.

Jeffrey Longstreth and 17 Consulting Group LLC, affiliated with Borges, had wire transfers, deposits and canceled checks given.

Householder’s argument

Householder’s team hasn’t submitted a final brief yet, but Entin predicted his arguments based on previous court documents.

“Yes, we got a bunch of money — we used it for the purpose of electing people who would support the kinds of policies that the donors wanted,” Entin said, acting as how Householder may respond. “These donors knew this was our position, so they thought that we could be effective.”

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Morgan Trau
Morgan Trau

Morgan Trau is a political reporter and multimedia journalist based out of the WEWS Columbus Bureau. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Trau has previously worked as an investigative, political and fact-checking reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich. at WZZM-TV; a reporter and MMJ in Spokane, Wash. at KREM-TV and has interned at 60 Minutes and worked for CBS Interactive and PBS NewsHour.

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