City Hall lobbyist agrees to plead guilty in red light camera case
Columbus City Hall lobbyist John Raphael has agreed to plead guilty to extortion charges involving Columbus elected officials and Redflex, the city's red light camera vendor.
In court documents filed today, federal prosecutors say Raphael repeatedly pressured the red light camera company to make campaign contributions to elected officials in Columbus or the company would lose its contracts with the city.
Federal prosecutors say Raphael also pressured the executives to make donations to elected officials in Cincinnati, which did not enter into a contract with Redflex.
Michael Miller is Raphael’s attorney.
“We’re not denying any of that. That’s exactly what happened. And that’s what ultimately what we’ll enter a plea to," Miller said. "It has nothing to do with bribery. There was no bribery, at all, whatsoever with anybody, anytime, anyplace.”
In an emailed statement, Raphael called his actions "improper," and he said he is ready to take responsibility.
Raphael underscored there were no bribes.
“I want to make it absolutely clear that at no time was I ever involved with any act of bribery or attempted bribery or conspiracy to bribe anyone. Not Redflex, not city officials, not anyone.”
The former CEO of Redflex alleges she funneled campaign contributions through Raphael to city officials. Karen Finley pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.
City Council President and mayoral candidate Andrew Ginther received one of the questionable contributions worth $20,000. He denies any wrongdoing.
Ginther says Raphael's admission of extorting the red light camera company absolves him of wrong-doing.
"The court documents filed today are clear, this was one person action alone. There was no conspiracy. The records show his actions involved no bribery or corruption of a public official," Ginther said.
In a statement released this morning, Ginther's campaign said the plea agreement shows that Raphael acted alone.
And Ginther says he is certain he will remain clear of any allegations of wrongdoing.
"That's what I shared with you and the people of Columbus, in June. And today's release of documents confirm that. And they also reinforce the independent investigation that I requested be done," Ginther said.
Today’s plea agreement filings do not implicate any city officials by name.
Miller said Raphael likely faces 15 to 37 months in prison. The maximum sentence is 20 years.
A federal investigation is ongoing.
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