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Ex-Ohio Republican Chair Alleges Prosecutors Lied About Nuclear Bailout Evidence

Former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges leaves federal court in Columbus after his arrest in July 2020.
Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio
Former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges leaves federal court in Columbus after his arrest in July 2020.

Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges has kept a fairly low profile since being arrested last summer as a part of the nuclear bailout bribery scandal. However, now he is alleging federal prosecutors lied about evidence in a meeting last year to get him to plead guilty.

Borges said he's not disputing that there was, as federal prosecutors said, a scandal that was the largest corruption case in state history. But when asked if he's saying that he wasn't a part of it, Borges responded, “That is absolutely correct.”

Borges hasn’t spoken out much, but is now talking about a complaint he’s filed, alleging federal prosecutors lied about evidence in a meeting last year to get him to plead guilty.

"Something happened that was unjust in and we thought inappropriate in a session that was very serious about what was going to happen with this case and with my life moving forward," Borges said. "They lied about evidence that they said that they had that they now have admitted that they didn't have. And I filed a complaint about it."

Borges made his comments as a part of an interview with the public television show The State of Ohio.

The State of Ohio - Matt Borges - August 20, 2021

A statement tweeted out by the Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Vipal J. Patel disputes Borges' claim.

“From time to time charge defendants and their supporters seek to intimidate our prosecutors by making frivolous bar complaints, engaging in public slur campaigns or otherwise," Patel said. "It doesn't work. Such intimidation efforts ring hollow and are wholly inappropriate. Our federal prosecutors are dedicated public servants who act with integrity and professionalism while pursuing one thing above all else justice. What are unfortunately becoming all too familiar, intimidation efforts will not deter this office's vigorous pursuit of it.”

Borges said he’s just trying to fight back.

“Me, a single defendant, you know, on his own, paying for his own defense. One single individual trying to intimidate the United States Department of Justice, who has all the power of the United States government that they can exert on you, is just a ridiculous sort of a comment to make and not at all what I'm trying to do," Borges said.

Borges and former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder are the only two defendants accused in the $61 million corruption scandal who have maintained their innocence. In the last year, two of those arrested, Juan Cespedes and Jeff Longstreth, have pleaded guilty. Another, lobbiest Neil Clark, died by suicide near his home in Florida in March.

On the morning of July 20, 2020, five people were arrested in connection with what federal prosecutors said was a huge pay to play scandal, as described by then-US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David Devillers as “likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.”

Prosecutors said the scheme was connected to the sweeping nuclear power plant bailout law known as House Bill 6.

The 501(c)4 non-profit dark money group Generation Now entered into a plea deal, as did FirstEnergy, which agreed to pay a $230 million fine. But Householder has said he's innocent, even as he wasousted from leadership not long after his arrest and then expelled from the House earlier this year.

Borges said he suspects former President Trump, who had Borges ousted as party chair in early 2017, had something to do with his arrest last year.

“It does lead one to believe that the only reason to include me in this issue that I had no involvement in whatsoever for at any point in time was an attempt to try to shut down the PAC that Anthony Scaramucci and I and others were working on to try to defeat President Trump," said Borges.

Borges said he wants to testify before the grand jury, but hasn’t been offered the opportunity. There has been no trial date set for either Borges or Householder.

Former US Attorney DeVillers said the pandemic has delayed the process, which usually takes about nine months to a year from indictment to trial. And he said the investigation is ongoing, so additional indictments and arrests are possible.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.