Juror’s COVID halts ex-Ohio House speaker’s corruption trial

Jan 25, 2023, 4:56 PM | Updated: Jan 26, 2023, 9:52 am

CORRECTS THAT PLANTS ARE FORMERLY OWNED BY FIRSTENERGY - Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, center, walks into Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse with his attorneys, Mark Marein, left, and Steven Bradley, right, before jury selection in his federal trial, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Cincinnati. Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges are charged with racketeering in an alleged $60 million scheme to pass state legislation to secure a $1 billion bailout for two nuclear power plants formerly owned by Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy. Householder and Borges have both pleaded not guilty. (AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

(AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The corruption trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was temporarily paused Wednesday after a juror tested positive for COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Black ordered proceedings paused for the remainder of this week “in an effort to ensure everyone’s safety.”

The directive Wednesday evening was an extension of a single day off Black had called Wednesday due to the juror’s illness, halting the highly anticipated trial just two days after it had begun.

Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday.

Altogether, 12 jurors and four alternates are hearing the case. Householder, 63, a Republican, and lobbyist Matt Borges, 50, a former chair of the Ohio Republican Party, are charged with conspiracy to participate in a $60 million racketeering enterprise involving bribery and money laundering. Each faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for those who test positive for the coronavirus to isolate for five days. They may exit isolation after that point, as long as they are feeling better, but are advised to wear a high-quality mask through the tenth day.

Federal prosecutors had been in the middle of questioning FBI agent Blane Wetzel on Tuesday and indicated Wetzel would be on the stand for the entirety of a second day.

Wetzel is walking through highlights of the tens of thousands of pages of documents gathered as part of the FBI’s investigation, described as the largest corruption case in Ohio history.

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Juror’s COVID halts ex-Ohio House speaker’s corruption trial