Jury selection begins in former Cincinnati politician BJ Sittenfeld’s federal corruption trial | Cincinnati News | Cincinnati

Photo: Jesse Fox

PG Sittenfeld

The federal trial of a former Cincinnati City Council member who was part of one of Cincinnati’s most disturbing civil eras begins.

The PG Sittenfeld trial began on June 21 as jury selection began. In 2020, Seittenfeld was arrested on a six-count indictment relating to a scheme that allegedly traded cash for votes related to the development of the former Convention Place mall. The charges relate to public corruption.

The trial is being held at the Potter Stewart courthouse in downtown and is expected to last about two weeks. No cameras are allowed in the courtroom.

FBI agents arrested Sittenfeld at his home in November of 2020 on a six-count federal indictment of bribery and extortion. Investigators said Seittenfeld arranged what amounted to campaign donations, even though he circumvented election law by directing those payments to the Political Action Committee, which he secretly controlled. Investigators said Sittenfeld promised favorable development deals because he personally accepted 10 checks, totaling $40,000, in exchange for votes.

Sittenfeld was suspended from the Cincinnati City Council in December of that year. To replace him, Hamilton County Probate Judge Ralph “Ted” Winkler appointed Liz Keating, who retained her seat on the council in the November election.

Prior to the indictment, Seittenfeld was considered the front-runner in the 2021 Cincinnati mayoral race, which former Hamilton County Courts Clerk Aftab Borival eventually won. Seittenfeld announced his withdrawal from the race on February 18 of that year, the deadline for submitting potential candidates.

“It is with a very sad heart that, due to the current situation, I have made the decision not to run for mayor,” Sittenfeld wrote on Facebook. “I am completely innocent and I work daily to do justice and make sure the facts are known – but the effort in mayoralty right now would distract voters from the important issues facing our city and increase the pressure on my family. I love our city and my family so much to put you and its people through that “.

Sittenfeld continues to maintain his innocence.

The charges against Sittenfeld are part of a larger scandal that has covered the city in recent years. The series of corruption cases began when Councilman Tamaya Denard was indicted on federal bribery charges related to her request for $15,000 from a local attorney. Denard resigned in March 2020, pleaded guilty in June, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Councilman Jeff Pastor was indicted in November 2020 on 10 federal counts of bribery, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy to commit online fraud. That was the same month Sittenfeld was arrested.

In 2018, Sittenfeld was part of the “Gang of Five” texting scandal involving several board members.

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