Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Ex-Ohio House speaker wants state official’s bribe omitted from his corruption trial

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Ohio’s former House Speaker doesn’t want his public corruption trial to include evidence of bribery allegations against another former top state official.

Federal prosecutors and former GOP House speaker Larry Householder both filed motions in court last week seeking to exclude pieces of evidence from the looming January 2023 trial against Householder and an alleged conspirator.

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Householder asked a federal judge to block an admission from FirstEnergy Corp., an Akron-based utility, that the company also paid a $4.3 million bribe to Sam Randazzo, formerly the state’s top utility regulator. Randazzo has not been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing.

Randazzo assisted in drafting House Bill 6 and also made regulatory decisions to FirstEnergy’s benefit, according to the company.

But according to Householder, the bribe to Randazzo is “beyond the scope of the conspiracy” of which Householder is accused. Therefore, communications between FirstEnergy executives and Randazzo should not be entered as trial evidence.

“That FirstEnergy may have bribed Randazzo does not make it more or less likely that Householder is guilty of the charge against him,” Householder’s attorneys wrote.

Householders’ attorneys also said the allegations against Randazzo don’t have anything to do with what Householder stands accused of.
“The government cannot show that Householder shared this alleged understanding with FirstEnergy and Randazzo. To be sure, the government alleges that both Householder and Randazzo took official action on [House Bill 6], but that alone does not suffice,” Householders attorneys wrote.
Prosecutors have accused Householder of secretly controlling a nonprofit that accepted $60 million from FirstEnergy. They say Householder used that money to engineer the passage in 2019 of House Bill 6, legislation worth $1.3 billion to a former FirstEnergy subsidiary. They say he also used the money to fortify his own political power and on personal use.
Prosecutors have called it the largest public corruption case in state history. Householder faces 20 years in prison if convicted. With the trial approaching, lawyers involved in the case now are arguing over what evidence and witnesses will be permitted to be introduced in court.
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Along with the Randazzo allegations, Householder asked that U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black exclude several statements from Neil Clark, a powerful GOP lobbyist charged alongside Householder, that were secretly recorded in phone calls from the FBI.

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