City Hall Lobbyist Gets 15 Month Prison Sentence
The Columbus City Hall lobbyist convicted for his role in the Redflex bribery scandal was sentenced yesterday to 15 months in prison for extortion. The scandal involved the bribery of elected Columbus officials, including Mayor Andy Ginther, former Mayor Michael Coleman and former city council member Mike Mentel, by the traffic-camera company trying to keep its contracts with the city. Federal prosecutors say 61-year-old John Raphael extorted campaign contributions from Phoenix-based Redflex and funneled them to elected officials through third parties. He pleaded guilty last fall to one count of interference with commerce by threats and was sentenced by federal judge Michael Watson. Watson said he thinks Raphael was a willing participant in the pay-to-play scheme but not its mastermind. He said Raphael succumbed to the pressures of power and access. Raphael told the judge he was not 'taking one for the team'. Watson said that was a curious statement and he didn't believe Raphael. Former Franklin County Prosecutor Mike Miller is Raphael's attorney. He says he wasn't sure what to make of Watson's comment.
Miller says the sentence was fair.
Federal prosecutors recommended a 37 month prison sentence, saying Raphael failed to cooperate with their investigation and lied to the FBI. Prosecutor Benjamin Glassman says he’s okay with the sentence.
He also hopes the sentence serves as a deterrent from future scandals.
Former Redflex CEO Karen Finley pleaded guilty to bribery charges last year. Raphael has 45 days to report to federal prison.