After donating tens of thousands of dollars in dirty money to Zero Experience Zach and his City Hall cronies, Klein pal and corrupt Redflex mastermind John Raphael plead guilty to extortion charges and was sentenced to hard time in federal prison.
Check out the Dispatch story below:
By Lucas Sullivan
The Columbus Dispatch • Wednesday June 8, 2016 6:24 PM
John Raphael, once the most powerful lobbyist at Columbus City Hall and a friend to prominent Columbus elected officials, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Watson handed down the punishment during a hearing that lasted about two hours. Watson, who said he knew Raphael, at times seemed pained by the task.
Raphael pleaded guilty to one count of extorting campaign contributions for city officials from red-light-camera vendor Redflex by threatening company executives with the loss of influence and contracts. Former Redflex executives who cooperated in the federal investigation said those payments were bribes that they passed through Raphael for contracts.
Raphael, 61 of Clintonville, pleaded guilty the extortion charge in October, saying that officials, including Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, former Mayor Michael B. Coleman and former City Council President Michael C. Mentel did not know what he was doing.
Federal court documents trace Redflex payments involving each of those officials: $20,000 through Raphael and the Ohio Democratic Party to Ginther’s City Council campaign fund in 2011; $5,000 through Raphael to the Franklin County Democratic Party at the request of Mentel in 2009; and $5,000 from Raphael to Coleman’s mayoral campaign account in 2007.
All three have said they did nothing wrong.
Watson said the pay-to-play in Columbus was done on a “grand scale” and that he never imagined there could be such a scheme.
Raphael said it stopped with him.
“I am not taking one for the team,” Raphael said in a statement to the court.
Watson, during sentencing, said it was curious that Raphael chose to make that statement and that he didn’t believe Raphael.
“You have chosen not to involve other people,” Watson said.
Mike Miller, Raphael’s attorney, said after the sentencing that Raphael was a disgraced man who took responsibility for his crime.
“But there were never bribes as the prosecution alleged,” he said.
Federal prosecutors were disappointed with the sentence and had recommended that Raphael serve 37 months in prison. Prosecutors argued that Raphael did not cooperate with their investigation. Raphael also lied to FBI investigators, they said in court documents.
Watson said Raphael was not under oath and did not have an attorney present when he made those statements to the FBI. Watson added that he didn’t believe Raphael was “the author of the scheme” to which he pleaded.
Before the hearing started, Watson, who was given the case last week when another judge recused himself, pulled Raphael’s attorneys and federal prosecutors into his chambers. Raphael’s attorneys said Watson told the group that he has known Raphael for years and asked if there were any objections to carrying on with the sentencing. Neither side objected.
Once the hearing started, Watson told the courtroom that he had approached Raphael twice while seeing him in the courthouse before taking the case. Watson said during those chance encounters he told Raphael he “was sorry” about the entire matter.
Watson was sullen and at times distressed about how to punish Raphael. At one point he took the palms of his hands and rubbed them up and down his cheeks.
“What I see before me is a person … who has done any number of good things in his life,” Watson said. “But who in his business succumbed to the pressures and the temptations of power and access.”
Raphael has 45 days to report to federal prison, which likely will be in Beckley, W.Va. His defense could file an extension because Raphael is having hip surgery later this month.
“I understand what I did was wrong,” Raphael said. “I’m guilty.”
In addition to the prison time, Watson sentenced Raphael to a year of probation and a $5,000 fine.
Raphael’s legal troubles are not over. He also is a key part in a continuing federal investigation involving caterer Centerplate, which he helped get a food-vendor contract at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
That federal investigation is ongoing.