Jury selection starts in Ohio public corruption trial in federal court – The Columbus Dispatch

Twelve jurors and four alternates were picked to weigh the evidence in the trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and ex-Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges on Friday in U.S. District Court in the state’s largest public corruption case.
Householder and Borges have both pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy. Borges rejected a plea deal in which the government would have recommended no more than six months in prison. Householder made clear he didn’t want a deal and he wasn’t offered one.
Federal prosecutors allege nearly $61 million was paid to help Householder win control of the Ohio House of Representatives, pass a $1 billion nuclear plant bailout for FirstEnergy Corp. and defend that law against a ballot initiative to block it.
Ohio corruption scandal:What you need to know about Ohio’s corruption case, Larry Householder trial
A 350-person jury pool was narrowed down to 53 people who arrived in U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black’s Cincinnati courtroom Friday morning. From there, attorneys and the judge whittled it down to 12 jurors and four alternates.
Householder’s attorney asked potential jurors about their views on money in politics and if anyone thought just because the FBI investigates someone, the person must have done something wrong. Prosecutors asked those in the pool whether they’ve worked on campaigns, made political donations or have problems with evidence collected through wiretaps, subpoenas or informants.
The jurors include a high school basketball coach, a man who once ran for local office in Norwood and another man who said he was eager to be in the jury because he saw it as his civic duty. Overall demographics of the 16 were not available Friday.
Black told potential jurors their duties and added that they’ll hear about politics during the trial but the case isn’t about whether they agree with certain political views.
“This is a trial, not an election,” he said. Black directed those who will be picked for the jury to remain fair and impartial throughout the trial.
No one raised their hand when Black asked potential jurors if they’d have difficulty avoiding news stories and social media posts about the case for the duration of the trial. “Really?” the judge asked and then repeated the instruction.
Timeline:Selling out in the Statehouse
Each side gets a limited number of chances to remove a potential juror. The defense used some of its strikes against a woman with hearing impairments, a man who said he supports solar power, and a man who said he suffers from anxiety attacks. The prosecution used strikes to remove a woman with serious back pain, a man who said he served 12 years in the military and a man who said he blamed President Joe Biden for the American economy being in a shambles and eggs costing $6 a dozen.
The trial comes two-and-a-half years after FBI agents arrested Householder, Borges, lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes and political consultant Jeff Longstreth and charged them with racketeering.
The case has made big headlines along the way.
Longstreth and Cespedes pleaded guilty in October 2020. Clark died by suicide in March 2021. Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. signed a deferred prosecution agreement in July 2021 in which it agreed to pay a $230 million fine and admit that it paid bribes to Householder and attorney Sam Randazzo. Gov. Mike DeWine appointed Randazzo to lead the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Randazzo hasn’t been charged and has said he did nothing wrong.
The trial, which is scheduled to last up to six weeks, is expected to include witness testimony, bank records, undercover wiretap recordings, text messages, business records and more.
Black demonstrated a humorous, conversational approach with the jurors. When asking about medical issues that may prevent someone from serving on the jury, one man disclosed that he needs frequent bathroom breaks. “I support the right to urinate,” Black said, eliciting chuckles.
Black pre-thanked jurors for their upcoming service. “We all recognize the commitment you are making and on behalf of the court and the community I say thank you. We are all very grateful.”
Federal jurors are paid $50 a day, plus mileage.
USA TODAY Network Ohio bureau reporters Jessie Balmert and Laura Bischoff have been following the House Bill 6 scandal since the story broke. They will continue to follow developments and the trial. Follow them on Twitter at @lbischoff and @jbalmert for updates.
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Balmert and Bischoff reporters for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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