After more than two years, Attorney General Dave Yost‘s civil lawsuit against FirstEnergy, former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, and others connected to the House Bill (HB) 6 scandal is once more being permitted to move forward.
Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Brown has granted Yost’s motion to lift the stay on proceedings in the case.
In February 2021, Brown agreed to halt the case until the conclusion of criminal proceedings against Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair and lobbyist Matt Borges for taking part in a $61 million bribery and racketeering plot surrounding HB 6, the state’s $1 billion bailout of the FirstEnergy nuclear power plant.
Following the guilty verdicts declared against Householder (pictured above, left) and Borges in federal court on March 9th, Brown lifted the stay, saying that it is “no longer necessary.”
Brown ordered the counsel to contact the court’s state attorney to schedule a zoom scheduling conference.
“Now, we dig—with backhoes, not shovels,” Yost said in a tweet following Brown’s order.
The attorney general’s office filed the lawsuit in September 2020, only a few weeks after federal prosecutors charged Householder, Borges and three other people with using FirstEnergy bribe money to enact HB6. The cities of Columbus and Cincinnati, which had filed a similar lawsuit, later joined Yost’s suit.
Yost (pictured above, right) is suing FirstEnergy, Energy Harbor, Householder, the other defendants in HB6, and individuals who Yost claims were complicit in the bribery scheme for unspecified damages.
He also added Sam Randazzo, a former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and Charles Jones and Michael Dowling, two former FirstEnergy executives, to the list of defendants last year. The Attorney General’s office accused them of engaging in extortion, money laundering, coercion, intimidation, and an attempted cover-up.
FirstEnergy agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their investigation and acknowledged conspiring with other parties and organizations to bribe public officials millions of dollars in exchange for specific official action to assist FirstEnergy.
Householder and Borges have said they will appeal their racketeering conspiracy convictions, which could carry a maximum 20-year jail sentence. The sentencing date has not been determined. Randazzo, Jones, and Dowling have not been charged with any crime thus far.
According to Yost, “Lifting the stay will allow us to continue collecting documents and to depose key witnesses in our ongoing effort to remedy the harm done.”
Yost says that he fully intends to recoup the unjustified earnings in the racketeering lawsuit.
“We are confident in our position, and fully intend to claw back those ill-gotten gains through our racketeering lawsuit. The discovery process may yield additional information that will reveal an expanded number of defendants who participated in the corrupt Householder Enterprise,” Yost said.
– – –
Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Dave Yost” by Dave Yost. Photo “Larry Householder” by Larry Householder.