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Judge heads to jail for lavish parties with campaign money

Judge Tim Horton will spend 10 days in jail after using campaign money improperly. (WSYX/WTTE)

A Franklin County judge will soon be serving jail time spending campaign cash to throw lavish parties for his staff and supporters.

Court records show Common Pleas Judge Timothy Horton decided to celebrate after his only opponent for his spot on the bench dropped out of the race in 2014. He spent $978 on a dinner for his staff at Due Amici in Downtown Columbus on March 4, 2014. A few weeks later he spent $1014 on a dinner for his supporters at Hyde Park Steakhouse in the Short North on March 24. A few months later he spent $173 on cigars to give to his supporters.

Horton admitted the expenditures were "unreasonable and excessive" in court records. He agreed to spend ten days in jail.

"This kind of conduct shouldn't be rewarded by looking away," said Doug Preisse, the chair of the Franklin County Republican Party.

Preisse said Horton, a Democrat, should step down.

"Whether it's a Republican judge or a Democratic judge, it doesn't matter," he said. "When a judge pleads guilty to finance law violations and will spend time in jail, that's the exact wrong message to send to the public.'

Horton's attorney said Horton will continue to serve on the bench.

“I respect the Judge’s decision and plan to serve the sentence promptly," Horton said in a statement from his attorney. "I take full responsibility for my mistakes, and am taking steps to ensure that the taxpayers suffer no financial loss during the period of my absence.”

His attorney said he would take an unpaid leave from the bench to serve his jail sentence. He said he hoped to serve his time as soon as possible.

Horton settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against him by a former intern in the fall of 2014, months after the spending spree.

"There's a pattern obviously and there's an accumulation of problems and violations and now finally a guilty plea," Preisse said.

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