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Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder sentenced to 20 years in prison for bribery

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder speaks to reporters outside the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse in Cincinnati after being found guilty in a $60 million bribery scheme
Nick Swartsell
Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder speaks to reporters outside the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse in Cincinnati after being found guilty in a $60 million bribery scheme

Updated: June 30, 2023, 9:13 AM ET

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was sentenced to spend 20 years in prison on Thursday for bribery.

Judge Timothy Black gave Householder, 64, the maximum sentence based on his conviction.

The judge blasted Householder as “a bully with a lust for power” who disregarded the Ohioans he represented when he masterminded the $61 million scheme to become speaker with bribes and dark money from FirstEnergy and pass the nuclear plant bailout for the utility.

U.S. marshals came into the courtroom just before Black announced the sentence. Householder emptied his pockets, was handcuffed, looked back at his wife and was taken from the room.

In his statement to the court, Householder defended himself as a faithful family man who's spent decades in public service to his community. He asked Black that the price his family would pay for a long sentence be considered.

But in a blistering statement, Black said Householder betrayed the trust Ohioans put in him, and that he was especially bothered by the $1.3 billion in subsidies that FirstEnergy stood to gain from House Bill 6.

"You know better than most people how that could have benefited Ohio," Black said.

"You liked being the puppetmaster," the judge said. And noting that not only was the prosecution's evidence against Householder overwhelming but that he lied on the stand when testifying in his defense, Black said, "You conned the people of Ohio and tried to con the jury, too."

"I have no sense that you grasp the harm that you caused," Black added.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Ken Parker was pleased with the sentence.

"Today we witnessed justice for Ohioans," Parker said outside the courthouse after the sentencing. "We were looking for accountability. And today we believe that Mr. Householder received just that."

Parker noted that Householder has never accepted responsibility or apologized for his crime.

“We didn't see any remorse from him and it was apparent the judge didn't either," Parker said.

The sentence was handed down after Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges were found guilty in a corruption trial back in March.

The incident has been called the largest corruption case in Ohio's history. The prosecutor argued that while Householder initiated the deal, he did not act by himself, and Borges entered into the deal late with full knowledge of the details.

Federal prosecutors had recommended Householder receive 16 to 20 years, holding in a sentencing memo that he “acted as the quintessential mob boss, directing the criminal enterprise from the shadows and using his casket carriers to execute the scheme.” That strategy, they said, gave Householder ”plausible deniability.”

Householder's own attorneys had recommended just 12 to 18 months, reporting to the judge that he is “a broken man” who has been “humiliated and disgraced” by the ordeal of his widely reported arrest, high-profile prosecution and seven-week trial by jury.

During the trial, a federal prosecutor argued that nearly $60 million went through a dark money group called Generation Now, which was controlled by Householder and allowed for "secret, undisclosed and unreported" money from FirstEnergy.

FirstEnergy expected a $1 billion bailout of two nuclear power plants, which were owned by a FirstEnergy subsidiary, from the passage of House Bill 6.

The prosecutor also claimed Householder personally received about $500,000 in the deal, and used the money to pay off credit card debt and make repairs to a Florida residence. Another $97,000 was used to pay staff and expenses for his 2018 reelection campaign.

During the trial, the prosecution called two of the people arrested — Juan Cespedes and Jeff Longstreth, who both pleaded guilty and are cooperating — to testify about political contributions they said were not ordinary, but rather bribes intended to secure passage of the bailout legislation. Generation Now, the 501(c) nonprofit through which much of the money flowed, also has pleaded guilty to racketeering.

Cespedes and Longstreth face up to six months in prison each under their plea deals. Neither has been sentenced.

The last person arrested, the late Statehouse superlobbyist Neil Clark, was heard on tape in the courtroom. Clark had pleaded not guilty before dying by suicide in March 2021.

A federal investigation remains ongoing.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Jared Clayton Brown joined the WOSU News team in November 2022. He spent seven years working for the Fox and NBC affiliate stations in Louisville and three years with the CBS affiliate station in Columbus.