Ex-Cincinnati council member PG Sittenfeld found guilty of bribery, extortion

A jury has found former Cincinnati councilmember PG Sittenfeld guilty on one charge of bribery and one charge of attempted extortion. He was found not guilty of both counts of honest services wire fraud and one count each of attempted bribery and extortion.

He likely won’t face sentencing for months, but could face two to three years in prison.

Sittenfeld put his head down as the verdict was read.

Steve Goodin, former prosecutor and Cincinnati council member, said he believes Sittenfeld’s conviction could be hard to overturn on appeal.

Once a rising star in Cincinnati’s political scene, Sittenfeld was the youngest council member in city history when voters elected him at age 27 in 2011. He won re-election twice as the top vote-getter and in July 2020 announced his campaign for mayor.

Then, on Nov. 19, 2020, FBI agents arrested Sittenfeld at his East Walnut Hills home and charged him with six public corruption charges. Prosecutors accused Sittenfeld of accepting $40,000 in donations to a political action committee (PAC) from undercover FBI agents posing as developers in exchange for his support and official acts to help the development of Convention Place Mall.

Sittenfeld was charged with two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of bribery and two counts of attempted extortion. Throughout the trial, Sittenfeld has maintained his innocence. He insisted there was never any quid pro quo and that he would have supported the Convention Place Mall project regardless of donations.

This high-profile case has captivated the region, with the courtroom filled to capacity on most days with Sittenfeld’s supporters and family, law clerks and lawyers, media and even a federal judge came to watch Sittenfeld on the witness stand. Also, U.S. attorney Ken Parker has been in the courtroom several times to observe.

The prosecutors — Matthew Singer, Emily Glatfelter and Megan Gaffney Painter — are also leading the public corruption case against former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others, which is scheduled for trial in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. That case will take place in the very same courtroom on Jan. 23, 2023 before U.S. District Judge Tim Black.

Jurors heard from Sittenfeld, undercover agents, former Bengal turned real estate developer Chinedum Ndukwe, interim city manager John Curp, attorney for Sittenfeld and Ndukwe, former assistant city solicitor Luke Blocher and former councilman Chris Seelbach.

Prosecutors played secret recordings to the jury, including conversations where Sittenfeld told agents, “I can deliver the votes.” On the witness stand, Sittenfeld explained many of his quotes, including that conversation, saying “it was just me expressing my confidence” that he could get his colleagues at City Hall to support the project. Sittenfeld’s attorneys accused prosecutors of only playing snippets of the recordings.

During his testimony, Sittenfeld admitted he’ll “probably never be in politics again” — win or lose.

WCPO is a content partner of Cox First Media.

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