Verdict announced in P.G. Sittenfeld trial

Sittenfeld was indicted in November 2020 on two counts each of honest services wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion by a government official.
Sittenfeld found guilty on 2 of 6 counts
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 12:48 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - P.G. Sittenfeld was found guilty of one count of bribery and one count of attempted extortion. He was found not guilty on two counts of honest services wire fraud, one count of bribery and one count of extortion.

He faces up to 10 years in jail for the bribery conviction and up to 20 years for the attempted extortion conviction, United States Attorney Kenneth L. Parker said.

Sittenfeld previously rejected a plea deal that would have limited his punishment if found guilty to probation only to two years or less in prison, court records show.

Attorney Steve Goodin said he anticipates sentencing to happen in about 60 days, but the judge has not officially announced the date yet.

Sittenfeld dipped his head after hearing the verdict, according to our partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer. His wife Sarah Coyne started to cry.

The former Cincinnati city councilmember left the courthouse without making a comment on the verdict.

FOX19 legal analyst Mike Allen talks verdict

“When elected officials choose to commit illegal acts, they greatly damage the relationship between government and the public they were elected to serve,” stated FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers. “The FBI prioritizes efforts to expose corruption in order to help maintain the integrity of our democracy and the trust citizens have in our government institutions.”

The jury has been deliberating since closing arguments on Wednesday.

FOX19 NOW’s Chris Riva, who was in the courtroom during closings, wrote in a Tweet that Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Singer started with this statement: “A public official may not receive a bribe. That is what the defendant has done here.”

Singer went on to say, “... Being a public official comes with power and privilege and the simple responsibility. To not corrupt yourself.”

Earlier, the defense presented its closing.

Riva wrote in a Tweet that Charlie Rittgers Jr., Sittenfeld’s attorney, said, “This entire case is about if PG had intent to be corrupt. He did not.”

Rittgers went on to say, “In this case, context provides the truth. He would never intend to sell votes or take a bribe. He would never take a bribe from anybody.”

Riva observed Sittenfeld patting Rittgers Jr. on the back after he wrapped up his closing.

Sittenfeld, 37, of East Walnut Hills, is accused of promising to support, perform “official acts,” and “deliver the votes” to help the development of a property with sports betting at 435 Elm Street across from the Duke Energy Convention in downtown Cincinnati in exchange for $40,000 in donations to his political action fund (PAC).

Sittenfeld was indicted in November 2020 on two counts each of honest services wire fraud, bribery, and attempted extortion by a government official.

The indictment states Sittenfeld solicited the money in exchange for his support to develop the Elm Street property which former Cincinnati Bengals player turned developer, Chinedum Ndukwe, envisioned as a hotel and office complex with apartments and a restaurant.

Sittenfeld also made it clear to the undercover agents how to donate the money, how much and what they would get in return, prosecutors have said.

According to Sittenfeld’s indictment, he told the undercover agents that $5,000 was the maximum that could go in the PAC and not be traced back to him and directed them to use different LLCs to pay the money so it could not be traced back to them.

“I’m doing this right and I also want to protect you guys,” the indictment quotes Sittenfeld saying.

Sittenfeld assured undercover agents he could get votes, according to the indictment, telling them, “Look, I’m ready to shepherd the votes as soon as it gets to us at council.”

In another exchange, the indictment quotes Sittenfeld saying of donations and his support: “you know, obviously nothing can be illegal like....illegally nothing can be a quid, quid pro quo. And I know that’s not what you’re saying either. But what I can say is that I’m always super pro-development and revitalization of especially our urban core.”

Sittenfeld pleaded not guilty and insisted since the day he was indicted that all allegations are false.

“The attempt to portray proper assistance to a project bringing jobs and growth to our city that benefits the public is a gross overreach and an injustice,” he tweeted at that time. “I stand strongly on my record of public service, including providing help that’s in the public interest, to anyone, whether they have ever made a political contribution to me or not.”

Sittenfeld’s attorneys have repeatedly said his indictment actually proves he did not commit a quid pro quo.

The defense says their client has always been pro-development, his actions are all perfectly legal and this is typical business conducted by politicians.

Prosecutors wanted the judge to limit how Sittenfeld’s attorneys defend him but “if the defendant introduces evidence relating to these investigations, this again ‘opens the door’ for the government to introduce clarifying evidence justifying those investigations, if necessary,” court records show.

Sittenfeld’s lawyers requested 13 character witnesses to testify in support of him, but the judge quickly made it clear that was not acceptable and would not happen.

He told them they were only permitted to bring in witnesses who could testify to conduct similar to the alleged crimes.

To be fair, the judge noted, prosecutors could then bring in rebuttal witnesses to speak to developments.

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