Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder walks up to a federal courthouse in Cincinnati for his sentencing. Photo by Morgan Trau, WEWS.
Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted in the largest bribery scheme in state history.
Householder served Ohio for a decade as a lawmaker, now he’s going to be serving for twice that long — as an inmate in federal prison.
Householder was sentenced by federal judge Timothy Black in United States District Court in Cincinnati Thursday morning, over three months after he and ex-GOP chair Matt Borges were found guilty by a federal jury of felony racketeering. Householder passed a nearly $61 million scheme for a billion-dollar bailout, House Bill 6, at the expense of taxpayers.
Black reaffirmed that Householder would be sentenced entirely for the offense he was convicted of, calling it the “biggest corruption case in Ohio history.” In a quote from the FBI, Black said this was the “demoralization of people.”
“[Voters] trusted you,” Black said. “You betrayed that trust.” He added that voters who chose Householder deserved someone who would fight for them, not himself.
“You took that away from them,” Black said.
The $60 million in the bribery scheme could have helped Ohioans through scholarships, grants and other programs, Black said.
“You took that away from the people of Ohio,” he said. “You handed it over to people with private jets.”
In his statements before sentencing, Black told Householder, “You like the control,” adding that he liked having people under his thumb. “You liked being the puppet master.”
Before his sentencing, Householder spoke for himself before the court and mentioned the loss of his daughter at age 4. Black cited that in his statements, saying that the loss of a daughter should have created empathy toward people, but it didn’t for Householder.
“Truth be told, you weren’t serving the people,” Black said. “You were serving yourself.”
In his final statements before sentencing, Black said that Householder tried to con the jury, referring to repeated untrue statements he made on the stand.
“I don’t think you get it,” Black said about Householder. “We reap what we sow.”
Black then announced Householder’s sentence: 20 years in prison.
“The court and community’s patience with Larry Householder has expired,” Black said after issuing his sentence. Householder was handcuffed and taken immediately into custody.
“We witnessed justice for Ohioans,” Ken Parker, U.S. Attorney, said following the sentencing.
This is accountability, Parker said.
“It showed that if you’re going to stand up and say that you’re a public servant in this state, that you have to be a true public servant, not an impostor,” he added.
“Should statehouse staffers, current lawmakers and lobbyists who were part of Householder’s crew be nervous right now?” statehouse reporter Morgan Trau asked Parker.
“Not if they didn’t do anything wrong,” Parker said, to chuckles. “We continue to look through evidence and we continue to listen to recordings and speak to individuals… if something’s there, we’re gonna go there too and address matters”
Trau asked Parker if there will be any merit to Householder’s appeal in another court.
“I am confident that we will be victorious on appeal,” he responded.
As he walked into the court building, reporters asked Householder how he was feeling ahead of the sentencing.
“I don’t feel — I don’t feel anything,” he responded.
When asked what he was hoping for today, he replied, “I don’t have a hope today.”
Even if he had any hope left, it would have been crushed by Black.
Trau live-tweeted during the sentencing hearing, including objections raised by Householder and statements from prosecutors, and Householder and his attorney, ahead of the judge’s decision.
FBI had asked for 16-20 year sentence for Householder
The FBI had requested that Householder face 16-20 years in prison for “causing immeasurable damage to the institution of democracy,” according to a sentencing memorandum released last week.
“He acted as the quintessential mob boss, directing the criminal enterprise from the shadows and using his casket carriers to execute the scheme,” the filing states.
The scope of the conspiracy was unprecedented, the filing states, but so was the “damage it left in its wake, both in terms of its potential financial harm to Ohioans and its erosion of public trust.”
Householder requested 12 to 18 month sentence
Householder had filed court documents stating that he believed he only deserved 12 to 18 months in prison.
“Mr. Householder is a broken man,” defense attorneys said. “He has been humiliated and disgraced.”
The attorneys for Householder acknowledge their request may be a “tall order,” however they say that “no defendant should be made a martyr to public passion.”
The good Householder has done for the community outweighs the bad, according to the filing.
“Our purpose here is not to relitigate the facts presented to the jury — that will be a task for the appellate lawyers and the appellate courts — but to present a perspective of Mr. Householder that was not reflected in his portrayal at trial and in the news media,” the document states.
Ultimately, the defense argued that the nature of the offense and Householder’s history and characteristics favor a “below-guidelines sentence.”
The attorneys argued that Householder “did not benefit financially from the offense,” claiming the money that came from his right-hand man who was in charge of running the financial aspect of the scheme was a loan. That “loan” was then used to pay off Householder’s debt and renovations to his Florida home.
The now-convicted felon has already faced punishment, the filing continues, as “his felony conviction bars him from ever holding public office in Ohio… his reputation has likewise been ruined.”
Householder was defiant after conviction
Back in March, the jury deliberated for nine hours before reaching a decision, finding both Householder and Borges guilty on charges including racketeering and conspiracy, charges which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
As he left the courthouse after the verdict was read, Householder maintained his innocence and said he was surprised by the jury’s decision.
“I was surprised by the verdict because I’m not guilty,” Householder said, telling reporters that he would return home to his Perry County farm to plant summer crops and go fishing with his son. “I respect their decision, but I don’t agree with it.”
The sentencing memo filed by the FBI acknowledged Householder’s defiance in the face of the guilty verdict and the prospect of a decades-long prison sentence.
“At no point in the investigation or trial did the defendant express remorse for his actions, and to the government’s knowledge, he has not expressed remorse at any time,” the document says. “In fact, through his sworn testimony, Householder showed his disrespect for the rule of law.”
Borges sentencing Friday
In a separate memorandum filed last week, the FBI had requested that Borges receive a 5 to 8 year sentence for his part in the corruption scheme.
“Borges’ primary role in the enterprise was to deprive Ohioans of the opportunity to overturn what Borges knew was corrupt legislation,” the filing said. “Borges furthered the criminal enterprise by laundering FirstEnergy payments through his own account.”
He then bribed Tyler Fehrman, a former friend turned FBI informant. During the bribe, Borges threatened Fehrman numerous times, saying things like, “I’m going to blow your house up.”
“Matt threatened my life, disrupted my existence, and took advantage of our friendship to line his own pockets,” Fehrman told OCJ/WEWS following the sentencing memorandum’s release. “His actions are inexcusable and wrong — regardless of what sentence he is given. Personally, I hope that both he and Larry are given the maximum sentence for their crimes.”
The feds chose the 5-8 year time frame because it reflects the seriousness of the offense, goes over Borges’ checkered past with law enforcement and also sets an example for others.
“Borges is familiar with the criminal justice system,” the FBI said.
Borges pleaded guilty in 2004 in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to a misdemeanor charge of improper use of a public office and was fined $1,000 for this conduct, which happened while serving as chief of staff to the Ohio State Treasurer. This was later expunged.
“Borges knew exactly where the lines were when he decided to cross them and participate in a criminal enterprise,” the filing states.
In court documents filed by Borges and his legal team, he requested a sentence of 12 months and one day.
Attorneys for Borges argued that in comparison to the other co-conspirators, his “involvement was substantially less culpable.”
“He had no decision-making authority with respect to anyone else, no control over the money coming to Generation Now, no knowledge of the full scope of the conspiracy, was not involved in the planning or organizing of the conspiracy (which began years before Borges’ involvement) and was involved for a limited time,” the filing states.
Borges then seemingly took responsibility for his bribe to Fehrman.
“Therefore, the ‘criminal activity’ within the scope of what Borges agreed to undertake should be limited to the $15,000 attempted bribe of Tyler Fehrman,” it states.
The filing explained why the reduced sentence is appropriate: Borges has made “significant positive contributions” in his life, he has zero criminal history points, he has already suffered a loss of work and reputation since the arrest, it would deter him from participating in more criminal activity, and it would “both vindicate society’s need for retribution and weigh out a just level of mercy.”
Borges will be sentenced at 11 a.m. on Friday.
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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