Former Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor Seeks New Lawyer in Corruption Case
CINCINNATI — Former Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Pastor is seeking a new attorney for his upcoming federal public corruption trial after his lawyer of more than a year, Ben Dusing, was temporarily suspended from the practice of law.
During a hearing on Wednesday, Pastor announced his intention to “find a new attorney,” with U.S. District Court Judge Matthew McFarland. The pastor now has 30 days to find a new lawyer before the next conference call with prosecutors and the judge on May 25.
But finding a new attorney who specializes in federal public corruption cases can be difficult because many already have clients who are tied to the City Hall and Ohio Statehouse corruption investigations. And Pastor’s new attorney will likely need at least six months to prepare for trial, given the volumes of evidence and wiretaps in his case.
“I’m just happy that justice is going through its normal process,” Pastor said as he left the courthouse on Wednesday.
Pastor faces a 10-count indictment accusing him of accepting $55,000 in bribes in exchange for votes and influence over development deals.
If a jury convicts Pastor, he likely faces five to six years in prison.
Pastor is one of three council members the FBI arrested in 2020 for public corruption. He was suspended from the board and continued to collect a paycheck from the city for more than a year until his term ended Jan. 3.
Pastor and his business partner, Tyran Marshall, are both charged in the public corruption case. Marshall allegedly acted as a middleman in taking bribes, and Pastor used Marshall’s nonprofit Ummah Strength, LLC to ‘sanitize’ the money, the indictment alleges .
The two sat on opposite sides of the courtroom and did not speak before the hearing. Then the two moved to tables at the front of the courtroom to face the judge once the hearing began.
The pastor sat alone at a table and addressed the judge himself, while Marshall sat at a table behind him with his attorney, Clyde Bennett.
The pair were due to face a jury together on May 2, but lawyers agreed to delay it. No new trial date has been set.
Dusing, a former federal prosecutor with a private practice in northern Kentucky, began working as pastor’s attorney shortly after he was indicted in November 2020.
For months there had been speculation that the high-profile case would end in a plea deal, but Dusing told reporters in January that Pastor would stand trial to fight corruption charges.
“The truth is what we are going to be judged for,” Dusing told WCPO in January. “There was no corruption, there was no crime. This is all made up.”
Weeks later, the Kentucky Supreme Court and then the Ohio Supreme Court suspended Dusing’s attorney license after a former client accused him of “unethical, wrongful, and fraudulent behavior.” in a Kenton County lawsuit.
This lawsuit did not initially deter Pastor from keeping Dusing on his case.
“I’m staying with my guy Ben Dusing,” Pastor wrote on Facebook after Dusing was suspended in Kentucky. “You can record calls, emails and texts. He’s my guy and he’s been good to me and my family and I’ll never forget that for as long as I live.”
Dusing, a famous white-collar defense attorney with multiple acquittals in high-profile cases, posted numerous videos of himself at the Ukrainian border in Poland, where he spent several weeks volunteering with refugees.
Meanwhile, former councilman PG Sittenfeld faces a jury trial in federal court June 20 on a separate indictment for public corruption.
And former city councilor Tamaya Dennard is expected to be released from jail next week and report to a halfway house. A judge sentenced her to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to honest services wire fraud in another public corruption case.