(CN) — The ousted speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives pleaded not guilty Thursday to a federal charge of racketeering conspiracy related to a $60 million bribery scheme involving the billion-dollar bailout of nuclear power plants.
Larry Householder was arrested on July 21 after being indicted by a grand jury alongside four other individuals and the nonprofit organization Generation Now, which was allegedly used to funnel millions of dollars in bribes to help pass House Bill 6, a $1 billion taxpayer bailout of two nuclear plants.
Householder, a Republican, appeared for his arraignment in the Southern District of Ohio by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Bowman, who was in the Cincinnati courtroom.
She accepted the not-guilty plea in a brief hearing that last about five minutes. The case will now continue on the docket of U.S. District Judge Timothy Black, a Barack Obama appointee.
Steven Bradley of the Cleveland law firm of Marein Bradley entered the plea on behalf of Householder. He replaced David Thomas and Kathryn Wallrabenstein of the Columbus firm Taft Stettinus & Hollister, who withdrew as counsel based on a “recently discovered conflict of interest.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Singer appeared on behalf of the federal government.
The arraignment had been postponed for two weeks to allow Householder to retain new counsel.
Four other defendants were charged in this case: Householder’s campaign strategist, Jeffrey Longstreth, as well as lobbyists Juan Cespedes, Neil Clark and Matthew Borges. They pleaded not guilty at their arraignment on Aug. 6.
On the day of Householder’s arrest, U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said the defendants were involved in “likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme ever perpetrated in the state of Ohio.”
The alleged scheme involved the funneling of money through Generation Now to ensure the passage of House Bill 6. The nonprofit was classified as a “social welfare entity” and was not required to disclose the personal information of its donors, which allowed Householder and his co-conspirators to funnel “dark money” into the enterprise, according to the indictment.
Householder, who was removed as speaker on July 30, is accused of receiving more than $500,000. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
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