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June 29, 2023

Former Ohio House speaker gets max federal prison sentence of 20 years for political corruption

In this post last week, I flagged the interesting federal sentencing memos submitted in the notable case of political corruption involving Ohio's former House Speaker Larry Householder.  Back in March, Householder and his co-defendant were convicted after trial on one count of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise involving bribery and money laundering.  In part because of Householders age (64), I thought he might get below (perhaps way below) the 16-20 years that federal prosecutors recommended.  But, as this local article details, he got the statutory max:

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to 20 years in prison for spearheading the largest political corruption scheme in state history.  U.S. District Judge Timothy Black’s sentence punctuated the fall for Householder, once one of the most powerful politicians in Ohio, but now a federal prisoner.

Householder, 64, led a scheme to secretly receive $60 million from Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp — a bankroll that helped fund his political operation, execute a campaign to pass legislation worth more than $1 billion for the company, and pay off his personal debts.  A jury in March found him guilty of racketeering alongside FirstEnergy Solutions lobbyist Matt Borges, a former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.  Borges is scheduled to be sentenced Friday....

In a blistering statement before delivering Householder’s sentence, Black called the former speaker a “bully with a lust for power.”  Householder was taken into custody immediately following the sentencing hearing. Showing little reaction other than a reddening of his cheeks, Householder stared straight ahead as federal marshals slapped handcuffs on his wrists and led him from the court room.

He offered no apology in his statement before the court, saying that “my life was totally and fully about making life better for those I served.”  As he was led from the courtroom, Householder turned to give a sheepish smile to family assembled in the courtroom.  “The court and the community’s patience for Mr. Householder has passed,” Black said.

Federal prosecutors argued Householder should serve 16-20 years in prison.  His defense attorneys argued for 12 to 18 months behind bars for the Glenford Republican.  But Black gave Householder the maximum sentence shortly after prosecutors evoked a who’s-who of disgraced politicians, from former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora to ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. “He committed perjury in this courtroom.  A sentence will show that the rule of law applies to everyone, including politicians,” assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Glatfelter said.

Householder was arrested in July 2020 and lost his speakership but hung on to his seat in the House for nearly a year. His colleagues in the House finally expelled him in June 2021.  He twice served as House Speaker, first from 2001 to 2004, when he left amid a federal pay-to-play investigation that ended without criminal charges.  He returned to the House in 2017 and to the speaker’s role in 2019, aided by secret political donations from FirstEnergy.

The Akron-based utility poured $60 million in bribes into so-called “dark money” nonprofits that allow political contributions to be shielded from the public.  That money was funneled to Householder to bankroll political advisers, polling, TV advertisements and other pieces of his political operation, and to pay for Householder’s personal legal debts and repairs on Householder’s Florida home, where his mother lived....

Householder testified in his own defense in the trial, a move that legal experts said backfired after prosecutors shredded his testimony on cross-examination. Householder’s attorneys have already said they plan to appeal.

Two others have pleaded guilty in the case — Householder’s political aide Jeff Longstreth and FirstEnergy Solutions lobbyist Juan Cespedes.  Both testified at trial and have not yet been sentenced. Neil Clark, another co-defendant in the case, died by suicide in 2021.

Borges is scheduled to be sentenced at 11 a.m. Friday. His attorneys asked for a one-year sentence, while prosecutors asked for between five and eight years.

No current or former employees of FirstEnergy have been charged.  The company agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and pay a $230 million fine as part of an agreement to avoid prosecution.  It also admitted paying a sperate $4.3 million bribe to former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chairman Sam Randazzo. Randazzo has not been charged with any crime.

Householder’s case became synonymous with how state politicians operate — with dark money, virtually untraceable for the public.  Critics praised the conviction, but lamented little has changed in state politics.  At trial, Householder’s attorneys argued that the prosecution’s case amounted to politics as usual in Ohio.

Prior related post:

June 29, 2023 at 03:19 PM | Permalink


You gotta love defense counsel's fantasyland sentencing recommendation, which probably made the judge even more convinced of the defendant's incorrigibility than he already was.

Please, please defense lawyers out there: Tell me how this was a "trial penalty" rather than earned retribution for dogged dishonesty and unrepentant greed.

This should be good.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 29, 2023 4:09:29 PM

So, what will Donald Trump's lawyers argue at his sentencing hearing? Compare these two political figures.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jun 29, 2023 4:15:59 PM

If Trump is convicted in the federal documents case, nothing less than 5 years would be appropriate. If he is charged and convicted of a Jan. 6 federal charge, nothing less than 20 would be appropriate. If he is charged and convicted with the Georgia ("all you need to find are.....votes"), 10 years appropriate. If he's convicted of the Mass. charge, 18 months. Am I missing anything?

Posted by: anon | Jun 29, 2023 6:14:18 PM

Jim Gormley --

"So, what will Donald Trump's lawyers argue at his sentencing hearing? Compare these two political figures."

Having no experience as a defense lawyer, I'm in a poor position to say what they'll argue. But if they argue that the moon is made of green cheese, they'll be doing a better job than the clownish defense lawyers in this case did.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 29, 2023 7:31:53 PM

Could any of Householder, et al.'s crimes have occurred so easily if not for the Roberts/Alito Court's ruling in Citizens United? I'm wondering how many other similar crimes have gone undiscovered over the past 13 or so years following the 2010 Citizens United ruling?

The "Tough on Crime Mob" typically point out that only a small percentage of crimes are actually discovered and prosecuted, which all would agree is generally true. What responsibility then does the Roberts/Alito Court share, if any, in the creation of a landscape in which such illegal schemes/acts involving corrupt politicians and the deep pocket special interests (PACS and Super PACS) occur?

Posted by: SG | Jun 29, 2023 8:50:17 PM

SG --

I'm sure illegal schemes, corrupt politicians and deep pocket special interests did not exist before Citizens United.


P.S. I notice you don't dispute or even mention the actual reasoning of Citizens United. My goodness.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 29, 2023 11:05:44 PM

That's it, Bill. Side with the criminals, the corrupt politicians, the deep pockets special interest groups. Of course, in your world, corporations are people and money is speech. My goodness.

Posted by: SG | Jun 30, 2023 4:05:55 AM

SG --

1. As you have previously proudly proclaimed, YOU are the one who sides with the criminals. Indeed you work for them.

2. And still you don't dispute or even mention the actual reasoning of Citizens United.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 30, 2023 7:02:10 AM

SG--do you realize what CU was all about?

Posted by: federalist | Jun 30, 2023 8:38:34 AM


Hilarious. The concept of corporate personhood has been around since 800BC India and medieval times in the West. Let’s not pretend this is some new concept.

Without it, economic progress would be slowed incredibly, as a business could cease to exist or go through years of closing an estate if the owner died.

It also gives you someone to sue in case of negligence. Would you rather sue Ford for a faulty part or all of the individual shareholders?

Would you do a spellcheck for me? I wrote this rather quickly.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 30, 2023 11:41:32 AM

"Corporate personhood" is a modern fiction concoted by lawyers for various purposes, some of which Tarls has articulated. However, it does NOT extend to individuals such as Republican Criminal Householder who sought to secrete and hide his crimes through the application of this lawyer-created "fiction". The American people reject this fiction as used by Republican Criminal Householder.

Posted by: SG | Jun 30, 2023 4:53:47 PM

SG --

You've said that you've spent years working for those who cherish and insist upon the presumption of innocence. Does that presumption extend to all defendants, or just the ones whose politics align with yours?

Just curious.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 30, 2023 5:11:45 PM


As a professional, I worked ethically, exhaustively, and with cult-like passion for each and every one of my clients irrespective of their race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, political affiliation (if any) and/or any other categorization. I had clients who were Dems, Reps, Independents, non-affiliated, and/or non-political. I would like to assume that you approached your job in much the same fashion.

Posted by: SG | Jun 30, 2023 9:48:52 PM

SG --

Your preferred assumption is correct, with one exception. I did not work with "cult-like passion." I tried to keep my passions out of my work. As an officer of the United States, it was my job to discern and apply the law irrespective of what my feelings about the defendant may have been. Being on the appellate end of things probably helped out with this.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 30, 2023 9:56:47 PM


I should clarify my previous statement.

My passion, enthusiasm, dedication, etc. to which I had previously referred, was in furtherance of, and directed toward, my profession. Without question, there were many clients who were despicable, and who barely qualified as 'human'. These clients included, but were not limited to: conservative Republicans, anti-semites, white Christian nationalists, Nazis, and a whole host of similarly situated folks. It was my responsibility to put my personal likes/dislikes aside and do my job, which I did quite well.

Posted by: SG | Jun 30, 2023 10:17:45 PM


No, “corporate personhood” is not modern or a fiction at all.

People can and and will work beyond the boundaries of any system we set up. Householder’s case is not about corporate personhood. It’s about greed and criminality.

And, do you really want to make this a Republican thing? Sheldon Silver was one of the most corrupt dirtbags in history. He made Boss Tweed blush.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jul 1, 2023 9:09:22 PM

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