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Judge allows ex-Ohio House speaker more time to find lawyer

August 20, 2020 GMT
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FILE – This April 4, 2017, file photo shows the entrance to FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio. A nuclear plant bailout law should be repealed immediately, Democratic members of the Ohio House announced Wednesday, July 22, 2020, as a bribery scandal involving one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers unfolded over the law’s passage. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
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FILE – This April 4, 2017, file photo shows the entrance to FirstEnergy Corp.'s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio. A nuclear plant bailout law should be repealed immediately, Democratic members of the Ohio House announced Wednesday, July 22, 2020, as a bribery scandal involving one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers unfolded over the law’s passage. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The former speaker of the Ohio House can take more time to find a permanent lawyer to defend him against a charge related to an alleged $60 million bribery scheme, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Republican Rep. Larry Householder and four others are accused of shepherding $60 million in energy company money for personal and political use, in exchange for passing a legislative bailout of two nuclear power plants and then derailing an attempt to place a rejection of the bailout on the ballot.

Four defendants pleaded not guilty earlier this month to the charge that they conspired as part of what one defendant called an “unholy alliance” aimed at saving the plants.

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A judge allowed Householder to delay that Aug. 6 court appearance to find a new attorney. Householder’s current attorney, Dave Thomas, says he has an unspecified conflict of interest and must drop off the case.

Householder had been scheduled for a hearing Thursday. But Thomas filed a new motion saying Householder still needs more time to find a long-term lawyer, and federal prosecutors didn’t oppose it. U.S. District Judge Timothy Black approved the request Thursday.

Black urged Householder “to expedite his efforts to secure new counsel, so as to avoid the need for any further continuances.”

A nonprofit called Generation Now is also charged as a corporation in the scheme. On Thursday, defense attorney Robert Krapenc entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the nonprofit. Krapenc declined to comment.

If convicted, the corporation could forfeit money or property to the government, according to the July 30 indictment.