TRAFICANT CASE Rep's motions show some borrowing
The congressman's motions don't have a uniform appearance, either.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Perhaps U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. needs a better proofreader for motions he's filing in federal court and presenting as his own work product.
A curious footnote appears in a 21-page disclosure motion he filed Monday night in his racketeering case that refers to the "undersigned counsel." Since the 17th District congressman, who is not a lawyer, couldn't have been the undersigned counsel, The Vindicator checked to see who had originally authored the footnote, possibly the entire motion.
The footnote is used to further explain why the defendant in the case asks for "due process material" rather than using the classic phrase "Brady material." The requests mean the government must play fairly by turning over evidence favorable to the accused.
A portion of the footnote states:
"For months in 1996 and 1997, in a death penalty case, the undersigned defense counsel argued for months, unsuccessfully, that 'Brady material' also includes impeachment evidence. The court involved finally reversed its position ..."
From death penalty case: It turns out the death penalty case was that of John Santine, who was charged in a murder-for-hire scheme in Trumbull County. Boardman Attys. John B. Juhasz and Thomas E. Zena defended Santine, who was found guilty but escaped the death sentence in 1997.
"That's my footnote, but I didn't give [Traficant] the motion," Juhasz said Thursday evening. As Juhasz looked over the document Traficant filed, the lawyer said, "This is my motion, but retyped."
Juhasz said the motion, designed for a state court case, has been modified slightly by someone to include a reference to the federal rules of criminal procedure. Because motions are public record, Traficant could have obtained it from the clerk of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, the lawyer said.
"There's nothing I can do about it," Juhasz said. "Motions aren't copyrighted."
Juhasz estimated that a handful of the 25 or so lawyers in town who do criminal defense work have, on occasion, used other lawyers' motions. He said he has from time to time provided to lawyers motions dealing with a specific law he has researched.
Traficant says he will defend himself in February when his racketeering case goes to trial in Cleveland's federal court. He has rejected U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells' suggestion to get a lawyer or, at the very least, legal advisers.
At his arraignment in May in a 10-count indictment, Traficant asked if handwritten motions were acceptable. The judge told him she accepts all kinds.
She has since scolded him, though, more than once, for faxing motions and reminded him that only originals are accepted by the clerk.
Sample motions: Juhasz said he and Atty. J. Gerald Ingram passed out packets of sample motions, including the one with that "undersigned" footnote, about two months ago at a Mahoning County Bar Association seminar.
Traficant didn't attend the seminar.
When asked if it's possible the motion Traficant submitted came from that sample packet, Juhasz said: "Absolutely."
Requires much research: Juhasz acknowledged that a lot of hard work goes into researching the case law referenced in motions. For example, the 21-page motion Traficant submitted that Juhasz created has 23 footnotes that represent his research.
Without reading the cases researched and referenced, "It's real dangerous to take someone else's motion and file it," Juhasz said.
Typically, lawyers keep standard motions, such as ones that seek prosecution evidence, in their computer, fill in the blanks for a specific case and then print them out.
Of the five motions Traficant filed Monday, only two appear similar in type size and form.
Juhasz demonstrated on his computer how he could change the typeface and appearance to match the 21-page motion Traficant submitted.
Signature missing: Traficant, meanwhile, didn't sign two of the five motions he filed late Monday night.
There's "Respectfully" and "Respectfully submitted" with a line underneath for his signature, but both are blank. He did sign the certification sheets, which show the date when copies were either mailed or hand-delivered to the government.
One certification sheet states the motion was "nailed" to the U.S. attorney's office in Cleveland.