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Judge agrees to delay appearance for Householder; 4 others plead not guilty

All four of the men entered not guilty pleas to racketeering conspiracy charges.
Credit: John Minchillo/AP
This Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 file photo shows Ohio State Representative Larry Householder (R), of District 72.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal judge has agreed to delay a court appearance for former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder for two weeks so that Householder can find a new attorney.

The former Ohio House Speaker is facing a federal racketeering charge and accused in taking part in a bribery scheme that the FBI says benefitted him, four other individuals and an energy company, FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries.

Householder’s current attorneys, David Thomas and Kathryn S. Wallrabenstein have asked to withdraw as Householder’s attorneys citing a conflict of interest, according to court records.

In an order issued Thursday morning, federal judge Tim Black ruled that Householder’s arraignment could be delayed by two weeks so that he can find a new lawyer.

The arraignments for Householder’s co-defendants – Juan Cespedes, Neil Clark, Jeff Longstreth and Matt Borges – were held Thursday afternoon.

All four of the men entered not guilty pleas to racketeering conspiracy charges.

All five men were indicted last week in what federal prosecutors described as a $60 million bribery scheme the enriched the men and helped secure the passage of House Bill 6 – a 2019 bill that provided a billion-dollar bailout to two nuclear power plants operated now by Energy Harbor, a former subsidiary of FirstEnergy.

The FBI says the men used a dark money charitable group, Generation Now, and other pass-through organizations to line their own pockets, help secure Householder as speaker and help other state lawmakers as part of a scheme to ensure that HB 6 passed the legislature and became law.

Generation Now was also on the docket for Thursday but no attorney appeared to represent the 501c4 dark money group. The case was continued.

FirstEnergy’s CEO Chuck Jones told investors during a call last month that his company acted appropriately but is cooperating with investigators. He did acknowledge that $15 million of the $60 million referenced in the criminal complaint filed by the FBI.

Householder was removed as Ohio House Speaker last Thursday – the same day he and the other co-defendants were indicted on racketeering charges.