CINCINNATI — A federal judge on Tuesday set a trial date in the corruption case against suspended Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor, fueling speculation that the political newcomer will fight the charges against him.
U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland set a May 2, 2022 trial date during a phone status conference on Monday at the agreement of all attorneys. It appears co-defendant Tyran Marshall, who is accused of funneling bribes to Pastor through an LLC, will face trial at the same time as Pastor.
The FBI arrested Pastor last November on charges that he took $55,000 in bribes from two developers during his first term on council. He faces charges of conspiracy, honest services wire fraud, bribery, attempted extortion and money laundering, which, if convicted, could send him to prison for several years.
“The delayed trial date is no one’s fault, and is a consequence of the backlog caused by the COVID-required closures," said Pastor's attorney, Ben Dusing. "That said, it’s important that we get this right, not quick, and additional time helps with that. We have a common goal here - justice - and it’s important for everyone that whatever happens moving forward, the end result is just."
Meanwhile no trial date has been set in the separate corruption case against suspended Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld. But U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Cole may set a trial date during a scheduled Aug. 3 status conference.
Sittenfeld has proclaimed his innocence and promised to fight the charges against him.
The FBI arrested Pastor and Sittenfeld a week apart last November, following separate grand jury indictments in a wide-reaching corruption probe at City Hall.
This means Cincinnati could be the home of two high-profile corruption trials of city council members next year. The number of witnesses coming into the federal courthouse to testify could be extensive – from local developers and lobbyists, to political strategists and former City Hall staffers.
Both Sittenfeld, a Democrat, and Pastor, a Republican, temporarily stepped down from their seats on Council but are still collecting city paychecks.
Cincinnati taxpayers could spend $132,891 on the salaries and health insurance for Pastor and Sittenfeld because state law allows them to collect full salaries until their cases are resolved in court or their council terms expire at the end of 2021.
Prosecutors accuse Sittenfeld of accepting eight checks in 2018 and 2019 into a secret slush fund while promising to “deliver the votes” on a development project. His attorneys insist it was a legal, transparent PAC.
Pastor is accused of accepting bribes between August 2018 and February 2019. Officials would not reveal the identity of one confidential witness who was helping the FBI build its case, but WCPO uncovered the identity of the developer in May.
Marshall is accused of acting as a middleman with Pastor using his nonprofit, Ummah Strength, LLC to “sanitize” bribe money, according to the indictment.
Meanwhile, former Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard, who pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud in a separate corruption case after her arrest in February 2020, began serving her 18-month sentence in June.