- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio House’s longest-serving Democrat resigned Friday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor related to the mishandling of campaign funds.

State Rep. Ron Gerberry, of Austintown, was convicted of a single charge of unlawful compensation of a public official, the Youngstown Vindicator reported (https://bit.ly/1Nr5tKm).

As part of a plea deal, Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney gave him a suspended sentence of 180 days in jail plus three years of unsupervised probation and 500 hours of community service. A $1,000 fine was also suspended.

Gerberry was required to resign and not seek public office for seven years under the agreement. He had served 27 combined years in the Legislature, qualifying him as dean of his caucus.

“It is with deep regret and shame that my public life ends in this way,” Gerberry said after the sentencing. Based on an earlier letter, his resignation had been expected.

The 62-year-old had been respected at the Statehouse for his willingness to work across party lines and for deep institutional knowledge rare in an era of term limits.

On Friday, Gerberry acknowledged prosecutors’ allegations that he had overpaid vendors during the 2009-2010 election cycle to make his campaign account look smaller then later accepted refunds, all in an effort to avoid contributing to his legislative caucus. He described “tremendous pressure” for legislators to share their campaign wealth.

“I attempted to hide money from the caucus with the understanding that what money was not spent on media would be refunded to my campaign,” the Vindicator quoted him as saying. “I was not aware that was an improper transaction. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

His plea deal allowed Gerberry to plead to just the one charge in exchange for cooperating with prosecutors in other local political corruption investigations and cases.


Information from: The Vindicator, https://www.vindy.com

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