Associates of Ousted Ohio Speaker Plead Not Guilty in Bribery Scheme

Larry Householder’s name plate is seen on the speaker’s dais before members of the Ohio House of Representatives voted to remove him as speaker of the House on July 30, 2020. (Joshua A. Bickel /The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

CINCINNATI (CN) — The four co-defendants of Republican lawmaker and former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges Thursday, while Householder’s scheduled hearing was delayed for two weeks so he can hire an attorney.

Householder is alleged to have funneled more than $60 million through a dark money nonprofit organization called Generation Now to ensure the passage of Ohio House Bill 6, a piece of legislation used to bail out two nuclear power plants at taxpayers’ expense.

He was indicted in the bribery scheme and removed from his position as speaker of the state House of Representatives last week in a 90-0 vote, and was eventually replaced by fellow Republican Bob Cupp, a former justice on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Householder requested and was granted a two-week delay in his arraignment to allow him more time to hire an attorney.

According to court documents, Householder’s previous counsel, David Thomas and Kathryn Wallrabenstein, filed a motion to withdraw after they discovered a conflict of interest.

The remaining defendants were arraigned Thursday in a hearing conducted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Litkovitz, who advised the defendants of their rights to an attorney and to remain silent.

Jeffrey Longstreth, Neil Clark, Matthew Borges and Juan Cespedes – lobbyists and a political consultant – along with each of their attorneys appeared via videoconference.

Each of the defendants was charged with conspiracy to participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of an enterprise’s affair through a pattern of racketeering activity.

The defendants entered not guilty pleas, and none of them chose to have the indictment read in open court.

If convicted, the members of so-called Team Householder face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

Generation Now was named alongside the individual defendants in the indictment brought the U.S. Attorney’s Office but did not have an attorney present at Thursday’s arraignment.

None of the individual defendants chose to make statements during the hearing.

Longstreth was represented by attorney Robert Krapenc; Clark was represented by attorney William Ireland II; Borges was represented by attorney Todd Long; Cespedes was represented by attorney Mark Collins.

According to the indictment, Longstreth was a political strategist for Householder who also operated JPL and Associates LLC, a company that allegedly received more than $10.5 million directly from Generation Now.

Clark, Borges and Cespedes, meanwhile, are lobbyists who allegedly help launder money and bribe campaign members to ensure the defeat of a ballot measure that sought to overturn House Bill 6.

Attorney Emily Glatfelter, Deputy Criminal Chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District Court of Ohio, also entered her appearance against all the defendants on behalf of the United States government during the arraignment.

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