COLUMBUS, Ohio — Fresh off convictions in the largest political corruption scandal in Ohio history, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former GOP state chair Matt Borges both hinted that they may appeal their convictions.
Householder told reporters: “I remain committed to the people of Ohio. I’ve always been committed to the people of Ohio, and I think that the justice system is what it is, and there’s a process. This is one step to the process. And we’re going to utilize every process we can in the judicial system until we get it right.”
Householder did not return a call seeking comment Friday.
But Borges told 10 Investigates that his “fight isn’t over” during a phone interview, adding that he and his attorneys are considering their next steps.
“And all I can say is that I was very surprised by this outcome, because I've never believed ever, at any point in time that I was participating in a conspiracy to commit racketeering acts,” Borges told 10 Investigates.
In a statement released Thursday after the verdict, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said:
“As presented by the trial team, Larry Householder illegally sold the statehouse, and thus he ultimately betrayed the great people of Ohio he was elected to serve. Matt Borges was a willing co-conspirator, who paid bribe money for insider information to assist Householder. Through its verdict … the jury reaffirmed that the illegal acts committed by both men will not be tolerated and that they should be held accountable.”
The FBI and federal prosecutors alleged that FirstEnergy used $60 million in dark money payments to help secure their legislative dreams – that involved helping to elect Larry Householder as Ohio’s House Speaker along with conduit lawmakers who would support the $1 billion bailout for the energy company and its now former subsidiary which operated two aging nuclear power plants.
The money – the feds alleged – was funneled through dark money groups and was used to the personal benefit of Householder and others who used the money to pay for personal expenses.
Borges was accused of bribing Tyler Fehrman, who was working for another campaign working to overturn HB 6 once it passed the legislature.
10 Investigates asked Borges if he bribed Fehrman.
Borges said: “No. And I’ve never disputed that Tyler and I met. Tyler had approached me about his personal needs that we did discuss him coming to work for me.
We did discuss the things that he was doing on the campaign, but it was never my intention to do the thing. First, Tyler can’t be bribed he’s not a public official under Ohio or federal law.”
In an interview with 10 Investigates, Fehrman said he was “relieved” by the convictions
“So yeah, initially, Matt, Matt made the bribe offer and I let him know, my integrity wasn't for sale. His response to that I really think made a difference with this jury. His response was, no matter what don't ever tell anyone about this conversation. Matt knew it was a bribe from day one. He knew what he was doing. And I think that carried through into the trial,” Fehrman told 10 investigates.
Even before trial, Householder has maintained his innocence. His co-defendants – Juan Cespedes and Jeff Longstreth – both pleaded guilty.
A former lobbyist, Neil Clark, died by suicide in Florida.
Borges who told 10TV's Bennett Haeberle by phone Friday he was surprised by the verdict:
“Some sort of quid pro quo was not something that I was ever involved in and I've heard Mr. Householder say that he was not involved in that either. and the jury of 14 fine men and women didn't agree with that,” Borges said.
FirstEnergy entered into an agreement with prosecutors acknowledging their role and avoiding trial. None of its former executives have been charged.
In a statement released to 10 Investigates, a spokeswoman said:
“While it would be inappropriate to comment on the verdict, FirstEnergy has taken decisive actions over the past several years to strengthen our leadership team and ensure a culture of strong ethics, integrity and accountability across the company."