Lead Householder juror explains why trial ‘left sour taste’ in his mouth
Jarrod Haines led the jury to convict Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder guilty of racketeering. Photo courtesy of Haines.
The lead juror in the largest corruption trial in Ohio history has been left disillusioned with state government, hoping political leaders will finally learn not to undercut their citizens in exchange for power and money.
A friend of juror Jarrod Haines introduced him to OCJ/WEWS. In a two-hour interview, the Greenfield, Ohio man discussed what evidence impacted him the most.
In this exclusive, Haines explained how he led the jury to the guilty verdict.
“Holy smokes, it was like a movie,” the juror told Statehouse reporter Morgan Trau.
It wasn’t a movie, but it could be made into one. Haines was the lead juror, or foreperson, in the most scandalous trial in state history.
He and 11 of his peers found former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former GOP leader Matt Borges guilty in a multi-million dollar political bribery scheme.
Householder passed a nearly $61 million scheme to pass a billion-dollar nuclear bailout, House Bill 6, at the expense of ratepayers.
In a deferred prosecution agreement, FirstEnergy confessed before the trial began that the legislation would provide a $1.3 billion bailout to help its failing corporation. Two co-conspirators, Jeff Longstreth and Juan Cespedes, also pleaded guilty before the trial started. Neil Clark, a longtime GOP lobbyist, committed suicide outside his Florida home after pleading not guilty.
“When the FBI agent was on the stand, it just kind of caught my interest,” the juror said. “Then from there on, I just felt like everything fell into place.”
The trial lasted six weeks, forcing the high school assistant principal to learn the inner workings of state government, campaign finance laws and how the FBI conducted undercover stings to break this racketeering case.
“A lot of those audio recordings put together really sums up the story,” he said.
The FBI wiretapped Neil Clark, a former Statehouse lobbyist, and those recordings were crucial for the jury, Haines said
“Nobody can do anything about it… These (c)4s are perfect for getting issues done,” Clark can be heard saying in trial exhibits obtained by OCJ/WEWS.
The defense tried to argue that this was “politics as usual.”
“It left a sour taste in my mouth,” the juror said.
The jury deliberated for nine hours.
He kept an open mind the entire trial, but the overwhelming amount of evidence was undeniable, Haines said.
While Householder is the big name here, actually, the juror said Borges was easier for the jury to decide on.
Whistleblower Tyler Fehrman testified that Borges tried to bribe him, and the FBI had the video, case closed.
“It was just kind of an a-ha moment,” Haines said about Fehrman’s testimony. “It was key for him to take the stand, for sure.”
This included a jarring quote from Borges telling the whistleblower that if he tells anyone about the bribe, he will “blow up” his house.
“It’s going to be easier when you have that evidence, and then you got to pay more attention to the other one,” he said.
Householder was more complex. For Haines, a major turning point in the trial was when the former speaker testified in his defense.
“Do you think that hurt or helped him?” Trau asked.
“I think that it helped him,” Haines responded, “until the prosecution had their chance.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Gladfelter’s brutal takedown of Householder was a defining moment for all jurors, he added.
“She was able to have a comment or a point to everything,” he said.
For every major — and minor — claim Householder made on the stand, Gladfelter had evidence that showed the opposite.
“The whole thing with him not being involved — it didn’t add up,” Haines said.
In his direct testimony, Householder denied knowing about Generation Now funds or threatening people who stood in the way of his scheme.
“We’re talking about (c)4 money and we’re trying to figure out where the payday lenders are going to be at,” Householder can be heard saying on a recorded call.
In a recording obtained by OCJ/WEWS, Householder seems to threaten state Reps. Dave Greenspan and Scott Lipps, who didn’t support him, saying: “If you’re going to f— with me, I’m going to f— with your kids.”
After each piece of evidence was shown, Householder conceded and admitted that it was possible he did know all of this information.
To learn more about the back and forth during cross-examination, click here.
The jurors were told to not research the case, something Haines took seriously — deleting Facebook off his phone and avoiding the news.
“We were waiting for Neil Clarke to take the stand; we had no clue that he had passed,” he said. “And also, we were expecting people from FirstEnergy to take the stand, and they didn’t.”
In pre-trial agreements, the legal teams decided that jurors would be left unaware that FirstEnergy confessed and that Clark killed himself.
“If it could happen and go wrong, it seemed like for a while it would,” Haines laughed.
The trial was postponed multiple times due to COVID-19 infections and a snowstorm that never came. Two jurors were removed from their duty for various reasons. Plus, Haines was one of the eight jurors who got stuck in an elevator at the courthouse.
“It was 56 minutes,” he said, sharing a photo of himself sweating inside the cramped space.
The jurors had affection for Judge Timothy Black, who told them he gets claustrophobic and “would have removed all his clothes had he been in their situation.”
There was also continuing tension that jurors didn’t get to hear much about.
The defense attorneys for Householder continued to yell about bias while the jury was out of the room. However, there were days that the team behaved poorly in front of the jury — which, no surprise — did not help their case.
Finishing the trial, Haines is going back to class, but said it’s the politicians who have something to learn.
“If that’s the way politics is run, I really don’t want to live in a country that’s run like that,” the juror said. “Hopefully, we can go down in history in making a change at the Statehouse.”
A running theme for the defense during the trial was how House Bill 6 was the right thing to do for “Bob and Betty Buckeye,” fictitious representations of the general public.
“We also, as a jury, had to do our due diligence and make sure that we were making the right decision for our fellow Ohioans, for our Bob and Betty Buckeye,” he added.
Householder and Borges are set to be sentenced to prison at the end of June. They face 20 years, but legal experts say Householder could get more for lying on the stand.
Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.
This 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.
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