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No Easter vacation for indicted FirstEnergy lobbyist, judge rules

by Staff

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Summit County judge said Mike Dowling, a FirstEnergy lobbyist charged with a sweep of bribery related crimes, cannot take a two-week trip to South Carolina to celebrate Easter.

Dowling last week asked Common Pleas Judge Susan Baker Ross for leave from terms of his pre-trial bond, which require him to stay in Ohio, to travel by car to his second home in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, from March 23 to April 4. He said he has aging family there who cannot travel, and other extended family will be in town as well.

It’s not that long a trip, he argued, if you consider the two driving days to and from South Carolina.

“The schedule proposed essentially provides him only a single weekend (Easter weekend) that he will have in Mt. Pleasant,” his attorneys wrote in a court filing. “Accordingly, the number of days requested given the duration of travel and ability to remain flexible for those family members intent on visiting Mr. Dowling in Mt. Pleasant, is not an unreasonable request.”

State attorneys who brought the charges said Dowling’s summer home or vacation plans aren’t privileges the court should spend its time on. They scoffed at referring to a 13-day trip as a “single” weekend.

“The charges accuse Dowling of corrupting Ohio’s government for purposes of greed and power,” they argued. “Dowling already gets many privileges that other criminal defendants charged with serious crimes in Summit County do not enjoy.”

Ross rejected Dowling’s motion without explanation in an order Friday.

Dowling, along with FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones, is accused of paying a $4.3 million bribe to Public Utilities Chairman of Ohio Sam Randazzo just before he was appointed by the governor as the state’s top utility regulator. The alleged bribe came in exchange for Randazzo’s favorable rulings in that role and his assistance pushing a $1.3 billion bailout bill tailored around FirstEnergy through the General Assembly. All three men have pleaded not guilty.

Randazzo faces a federal criminal prosecution and state civil lawsuit on similar charges.

Ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and three conspirators have all been convicted or pleaded guilty to racketeering. They were accused of engaging in a similar, related bribery scheme to accept a massive bribe from FirstEnergy to build up a political machine that could get the bailout legislation through the Statehouse. Householder is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Jake Zuckerman covers state politics and policy for and The Plain Dealer.

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