An Ohio judge should not have frozen up to $8 million of former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo's assets, an appeals court panel ruled Tuesday.
Akron-based FirstEnergy admitted in federal court that it bribed Randazzo to help its bottom line. Randazzo resigned from the PUCO in November 2020, shortly after the FBI searched his home. But he has not been charged with any crime and says he did nothing wrong.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against Randazzo and others accused of misdeeds in a federal corruption investigation. As part of that lawsuit, Yost's office asked Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christopher Brown to freeze Randazzo's assets.
FirstEnergy fallout:Judge freezes ex-PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo's accounts amid bribery scheme lawsuit
In the first months of 2021, Randazzo had transferred a $500,000 home to a relative and sold four other properties worth $4.8 million. A Naples, Fla., property alone was worth $3.9 million. He also is poised to transfer another property to one or two trusts, according to court filings.
Yost's office contended that Randazzo could wire money anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. But a trio of judges with the 10th District Court of Appeals ruled that the state hadn't made its case that Randazzo was going to do that.
"Furthermore, the State provides no explanation for why it stated on the garnishment form that it had obtained a judgment against appellants in the amount of $8 million dollars," the judges wrote.
Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Court: Assets of ex-PUCO chair Sam Randazzo shouldn't have been frozen