P.G. Sittenfeld trial: 16 jurors selected

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 10:10 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2022 at 2:21 PM EDT

CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Former Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld’s corruption trial is now underway as the 16 jurors have been selected from the pool of 80.

Sittenfeld, 37, walked into the federal courthouse off Walnut Street in downtown Cincinnati holding hands with his wife, Dr. Sarah Coyne, with two other family members right behind them.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks now that the jurors have been chosen.

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Cole is presiding.

Cameras are not allowed in the courtroom.

Media is not permitted to bring in laptops and all phones must be turned off, so live tweeting and other social media updates during testimony are prohibited, according to a court order the judge signed last week.

Judge Cole asked jurors if they knew 46 people who may be called as potential witnesses including developers and former city employees:

  • Stephen Leeper: President & CEO of Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC)
  • Former CEO of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Michael Fisher
  • Jeff Berding, CEO FCC Cincinnati and former Cincinnati City Council Member
  • Laura Brunner, CEO and President of Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority
  • Luke Blocher, formerly with the city solicitor’s office. Now he works for a private law firm
  • in downtown Cincinnati, Taft Stettinius & Hollister
  • Current Interim City Manager John Curp
  • CEO Pure Romance Chris Cicchinelli
  • Montgomery City Councilman Chris Debozsi
  • Brian Tome, pastor of Crossroads Church

On Wednesday, prosecutors and defense attorneys will go through jury instructions and will begin opening statements.

Sittenfeld, a Democrat who served on council for a decade, was indicted on two counts each of honest services wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion by a government official in Nov. 2020.

He was one of three council members charged that year in what prosecutors describe as a pay-to-play scheme in exchange for votes or support for development projects - in Sittenfeld’s case, a contribution to his political action committee (PAC).

Prosecutors allege in court records Sittenfeld promised support for development deals in exchange for $40,000 in donations to his political action fund (PAC).

According to the indictment, Sittenfeld accepted bribe money from “developers” in 2018 and 2019 while promising to “deliver the votes” and perform other official actions with respect to a development project before the city council.

Those “developers” were really federal agents, according to court records.

Sittenfeld’s legal team maintains the indictment actually shows he did not engage in a quid pro quo agreement.

Sittenfeld has steadfastly maintained his innocence from the start and insists the allegations are simply not true.

He recently rejected a plea deal that would have limited his punishment if found guilty to probation only to two years in prison.

Federal prosecutors have said a jury should decide the case and that not all of their evidence was in Sittenfeld’s indictment.

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