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Householder, Borges attorneys cross examine FBI witness in corruption trial

Potter Stewart United States Courthouse in Cincinnati
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Potter Stewart United States Courthouse in Cincinnati

After waiting seven trial days, the defense teams for Republican former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges had their first opportunity to cross examine Blane Wetzel, the FBI special agent who is a witness for the prosecution in the trial over bribery allegations.

Householder is accused of using bribe money from FirstEnergy for personal and political gain. Investigators said Householder took the money in exchange for passing House Bill 6, the $1 billion nuclear power plant bailout that was passed and signed into law in 2019.

Borges, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist, is accused of offering a $15,000 bribe to a consultant working for a campaign that opposed the bailout and wanted to put it onto the ballot.

Defense cross examines FBI witness

Robert Glickman, Householder’s attorney, asked Wetzel about a number of pieces of information that came up during his testimony with the prosecution.

Glickman mentioned Wetzel went over an email asking for the state plane to pick up legislators who'd gone back to their districts to bring them in for a vote on HB 6. Glickman pointed out that the plane never took off.

Glickman also asked Wetzel about certain practices that are “usual” in state politics, such as candidates sharing space for campaign committees, a speakership race needing extra fundraising, and corporations developing draft legislation.

Wetzel mostly responded by saying that it was not for him to characterize what is usual and what is not.

Glickman said it’s “routine that politicians express support for policy and legislation that donors might want.”

Wetzel responded that he “wouldn’t say that it was routine.”

Prosecution wraps questions for FBI witness

Over the last seven days of the trial, Emily Glatfelter, assistant U.S. attorney, has pored over hundreds of documents obtained by FBI Special Agent Blane Wetzel during his investigation.

Those documents included secret recordings of phone calls, hidden camera footage of in-person meetings, text messages, and bank statements. Glatfelter has said this evidence will show that Householder and Borges collaborated with many different parties, including FirstEnergy executives, to carry out the alleged bribery scheme.

FirstEnergy and other co-defendants have admitted to their roles in the scheme.

The prosecution concluded its questioning of Wetzel Thursday morning by having the special FBI agent go over the total amount of money the defendants personally received.

Wetzel said Householder saw a benefit of $513,668 from FirstEnergy through paying down credit card debts, home renovations, a lawsuit settlement, and the salary raise he received by becoming Ohio House speaker.

Wetzel showed that Borges received about $366,000 through payments from FirstEnergy to his consulting group.

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