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Ex-Ohio speaker’s lawyer questions ‘vibes,’ judge’s fitness

One of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s lawyers questioned the fitness on Jan. 31 of U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black to preside over the Republican’s corruption trial.

Attorney Mark Marein raised the issue as the trial of Householder and lobbyist Matt Borges, a former chair of the Ohio Republican Party, resumed after a week’s pause due to COVID-19. Marein said he was getting bad “vibes” from the court and wondered whether Black might hold “personal animosity” toward Householder for the ex-speaker’s political work against the judge decades ago.

Black said he was fit to preside. He had scolded Householder’s team the previous week for unprofessional and “bush league” behavior, after attorneys made faces and clicked pens during the government’s opening statement.

Householder and Borges are accused of taking part in a $60 million bribery schemesecretly funded by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., that involved securing Householder’s power, electing his allies, passing a $1 billion nuclear bailout bill, and keeping a referendum against it off the ballot. Each faces a single charge of racketeering that carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.

Black dismissed a juror on Jan. 31 who refused to wear a mask, following a juror’s positive coronavirus diagnosis last week and a week’s break to allow the person to isolate and recover. Twelve jurors and four alternates were originally chosen.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks.

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