A defense lawyer questions the ‘vibes’ and judge’s fitness in former House Speaker Larry Householder’s corruption trial

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CINCINNATI (AP) — One of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s defense lawyer questioned the fitness on Tuesday of U.S. District Judge Timothy Black to preside over the Republican’s corruption trial.

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. These same attorneys questioned the judge's fitness to oversee the case on Tuesday.
Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, center, walks into Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse with his attorneys before jury selection in his federal corruption trial, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, in Cincinnati. [Joshua A. Bickel | AP]
Attorney Mark Marein raised the issue of fitness 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 his fitness to preside should not be in question. He had scolded Householder’s team last week for unprofessional and “bush league” behavior, after attorneys made faces and clicked pens during the government’s open 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 Tuesday 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. A pool of 12 jurors and four alternates were originally chosen.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks.