For the second time in a year, a former state representative heads to prison for ethics violations he made while serving in office.
Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports.
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Judge Bender - That’s count four - what is your plea on that charge, sir?
Luckie - Guilty.
A few hours after his trial was set to begin on 50 charges including money laundering, forgery, tampering with evidence and grand theft, former state Rep. Carlton Luckie struck a deal. The Dayton area Democrat pleaded guilty to eight charges, seven of them felonies. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien agreed to a three year sentence, though Luckie could have gotten more than ten years. O’Brien says Luckie was accused of skimming as much as $150,000 out of his campaign fund over a six year period.
O-Brien - There were withdrawals from places like casinos, debit account purchases previously mentioned, there were wire transfers.
O’Brien says Luckie’s forms included faked invoices and hotel receipts, and also included expenditures that should have been reported that weren’t, and some that were reported that didn’t exist. Luckie will also have to pay back to the state nearly 12-thousand dollars, the salary he received from the time he was indicted in October till his term ended in December. Luckie did not seek re-election, but did not resign after he was indicted. Before he was sentenced, Luckie told Judge John Bender that he wanted to apologize to his constituents and his extended family for what he called his errors in judgment, and that he’d spread himself too thin.
Luckie - I’d tell them that I’m human, and I have fallen short in this instance. And I’d like to apologize to the court and the state of Ohio, and especially my colleagues at the Statehouse. And I thank you for letting me to address, and I do take full responsibility for my actions.
But Luckie’s lawyer Lloyd Pierre-Louis says Luckie now knows he was wrong.
Pierre-Louis - The issues weren’t that he was in his mind intentionally dipping into the campaign account for purposes of stealing. This was an issue where in his view he had certain rights, he had certain opportunities to spend properly and those unfortunately were co-mingled at times.
Luckie is to report for prison on March 18, and could try for early release as soon as six months into his sentence. This is the second time in a year that a state representative has gone from the Statehouse to prison. Former Columbus Rep. Carlton Weddington, also a Democrat, admitted accepting all-expense paid trips as bribes to introduce legislation. O’Brien says any other lawmakers who aren’t following the rules should take notice.
O'Brien - I think the message it sends is whether you’re stealing from your campaign fund, as Mr. Luckie was doing, or whether you’re taking bribes as Mr. Weddington was doing, that eventually you’ll be caught and there will be serious sanctions.
O’Brien says campaign finance reports are filed on the honor system, so there’s no way to tell how often something like this might be happening among elected officials and O’Brien suggests lawmakers might want to look over the law and make changes to it. The FBI stumbled on Luckie’s ethics forms during an investigation into payday lending legislation at the Statehouse. O’Brien wouldn’t talk further about the FBI investigation, but said part of the plea deal included Luckie’s cooperation with federal agents. Weddington had also been interviewed by the FBI before he started his three year prison sentence.