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Prosecutors ask judge to delay corruption trial for former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor

PG Sittenfeld may be first to face jury
Attorney Ben Dusing and suspended City Councilman Jeff Pastor.
Posted at 10:55 AM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 16:09:10-05

CINCINNATI — Federal prosecutors asked a judge to delay the May 2 trial for former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor on public corruption charges after plea negotiations fell through.

In a motion filed late Monday, prosecutors asked U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland to set a status conference where attorneys can discuss a new trial date for Pastor and his co-defendant Tyran Marshall. If the judge agrees, Pastor’s new trial date will likely be moved to the fall given the full caseload of lead prosecutor Emily Glatfelter.

That busy caseload for Glatfelter includes being one of the lead prosecutors in the lengthy espionage trial of Chinese intelligence agent Yanjun Xu.

“The parties were involved in plea negotiations. Despite these efforts, the parties were unable to resolve the matter through a plea. In the interim, given various factors, schedules relating to other matters have been altered, impacting the trial date in this matter,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Singer wrote in the motion asking the judge for a status conference to reset Pastor’s trial date.

Singer and Glatfelter are the lead prosecutors in the biggest public corruption case in state history. In July 2020 FBI agents arrested then Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, former Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, two lobbyists and a political strategist in connection with an alleged $60 million bribery scheme.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black will hold a status conference in that case on Wednesday and may set trial dates for Householder and Borges, who have pleaded not guilty.

That means former City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld will likely be the public official first to face a jury in two widespread FBI corruption probes that span from Cincinnati City Hall to the statehouse in Columbus. Sittenfeld’s trial is set for June 20 and attorneys have not filed a motion to delay it.

PG Sittenfeld outside federal courthouse Sept. 7, 2021.png
PG Sittenfeld walks to U.S. District Court with attorneys Charles H. Rittgers and Charlie M. Rittgers

Pastor’s attorney Ben Dusing told WCPO on Jan. 12 that he will go to trial to fight corruption charges, ending months of speculation that his high-profile case would end with a plea deal.

“The truth is why we’re going to trial,” Dusing said. “There was no corruption, there was no crime. All of this is made up.”

Pastor faces a 10-count indictment accusing him of taking $55,000 in bribes in exchange for votes and influence on development deals.

If a jury convicts Pastor, he likely faces five to six years in prison.

“This is not a man who is going to cop to something he didn’t do to take the easy way out,” Dusing said. “It’s not who he is.”

Dusing has agreed to the trial delay and so has Marshall’s attorney, Clyde Bennett.

“The government has discussed the issue with counsel for defendant Pastor and defendant Marshall, and all parties agree to a continuance of the trial date, the details of which can be explained in more detail through a status conference,” Singer wrote.

Pastor is one of three council members the FBI arrested in 2020 on charges of public corruption. He took a suspension from council and continued to collect a city paycheck for more than a year until his term ended on Jan. 3.

Pastor and his business partner, Marshall, are both charged in the public corruption case. Marshall allegedly acted as a middleman in receiving bribes, and Pastor used Marshall’s nonprofit, Ummah Strength, LLC to “sanitize” money, according to the indictment.

Attorney Ben Dusing and former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor in a Jan. 12, 2022 interview.
Attorney Ben Dusing and former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor in a Jan. 12, 2022 interview.

The third council member arrested on corruption charges, Tamaya Dennard, is serving an 18-month prison term after she pleaded guilty.

Sittenfeld, who told WCPO that he intends to fight the charges until the very end, is awaiting trial in a separate public corruption indictment.

Prosecutors accuse Sittenfeld of depositing $40,000 from undercover FBI agents, allegedly in exchange for his support on a Downtown development project.

But Sittenfeld’s attorney, Charlie Rittgers, has said the PAC at the heart of the government’s corruption case is legal, transparent and follows Federal Election Commission rules.

Sittenfeld’s trial will likely take three to four weeks in late June and early July. Experts say many current and former City Hall staffers, lobbyists and political strategists, developers and others will take the witness stand.