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Informant closes prosecution's case in Householder and Borges bribery trial

Potter Stewart United States Courthouse in Cincinnati. Photography and videography is banned inside the federal courthouse.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
The Potter Stewart United States Courthouse in Cincinnati. Photography and videography is banned inside the federal courthouse.

The prosecution has rested in the racketeering trial of Republican former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and ex-GOP chair Matt Borges.

The testimony for the prosecution in the federal corruption case related to the House Bill 6 nuclear power plant bailout ended with an informant who’d been close with Borges.

Republican operative Tyler Fehrman told jurors that it seemed wrong when he said his friend Borges, who knew Ferhman was in financial trouble, offered him money for information about the campaign to ask voters to repeal House Bill 6.

“Matt’s requests to me were shocking,” Fehrman told jurors. “I felt like I was being taken advantage of by someone I trusted.”

But after meeting with an FBI special agent, Fehrman accepted a $15,000 check from Borges, who wanted information on signature gathering for the repeal effort, which never made it to the ballot. Fehrman said he felt threatened when Borges said he’d blow up Fehrman’s house if now-retired Columbus Dispatch reporter Randy Ludlow found out – a comment captured on tape by the FBI.

Borges' attorney then cross-examined Fehrman, asking about details of his personal financial situation and how that might have played into the decision to offer information to the FBI.

Then the defense began its case, calling as its first witness Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), a supporter of both House Bill 6 and Householder. Seitz said he thought the law was good policy and said he never saw Householder threaten anyone.

Householder and Borges are accused in a $61 million bribery scheme to pass House Bill 6 for FirstEnergy, a subsidiary of which owned the nuclear power plants. They’ve said they’re innocent, and Householder has suggested he will testify in his defense.

It's been two-and-a-half years since Householder, Borges and three others were arrested and charged in an elaborate scheme, secretly funded by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., to secure Householder’s power, elect his allies, pass legislation containing a $1 billion bailout for two aging nuclear power plants, and then vex a ballot effort to overturn the bill with a dirty tricks campaign.

The prosecution called two of those arrested — Juan Cespedes and Jeff Longstreth, who have both pleaded guilty — to the stand to give firsthand accounts of what they said are not ordinary political contributions, but bribes intended to secure passage of the bailout bill, known as House Bill 6. Householder's attorneys have described his activities as nothing more than hardball politics.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.