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TRAFICANT CASE Judge wants rep to prove allegations



Published: Sat, August 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman filed more questions Friday, which add to the 62 questions he wants to ask the lead prosecutor.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- The federal judge presiding over U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s racketeering case wants him to quit talking about prosecutorial misconduct and show her some proof.

U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells issued an order at 2:08 p.m. Friday that responded to a motion the 17th District congressman filed late Monday that contained 62 accusatory questions. Traficant filed the questions without any affidavits to support his accusations.

The questions imply that Craig S. Morford, lead prosecutor, somehow coerced or promised reduced sentences to potential witnesses so they would provide false information.

Traficant, a ninth-term Democrat who faces a 10-count indictment, wants Judge Wells to hold an evidentiary hearing and allow him to ask Morford the questions. Traficant's goal is to see Morford removed as prosecutor and then call him to the witness stand Feb. 4, when Traficant's trial is scheduled to begin.

Affidavits: In her order, Judge Wells gives Traficant, who is not a lawyer, until Sept. 7 to provide affidavits and any other evidence he may have to support his claims. The judge noted that at a status conference July 20, Traficant said he would include an affidavit with his motion.

Judge Wells apparently had not seen Traficant's latest motion -- he filed it at 12:02 p.m. Friday with three more questions -- or the government's response to it when she filed her order. The government, at 2:10 p.m. Friday, reiterated its initial response -- it asked the judge to order Traficant to produce the evidence he claimed to have.

"The second motion is a continuation of the same tactic that Congressman Traficant employed in the first -- 'When the facts are against you, then attack the prosecution,'" Matthew B. Kall, an assistant U.S. attorney wrote, borrowing a quote from another federal case, United States vs. Griffin.

If Traficant can't produce evidence to go with each allegation, he should be sanctioned for making baseless allegations, the government said.

Traficant filed his supplemental motion in Youngstown's federal court and continued his theme of prosecutorial misconduct. He names nine witnesses he says were threatened or intimidated but says there are others.

As with his Monday motion, the congressman inserted a line Friday he contends was used by Morford and his team: "Tell us what we want to hear, the way we want to hear it, or we will indict you, too!"

So far, three prominent businessmen have pleaded guilty in the Traficant case and are expected to testify against him.

In the event the government's alleged behavior -- threatening criminal prosecution -- leads to the death of a witness, the violator is subject to prison and possibly death, Traficant said, quoting a federal law in his motion.

Potential loss of life: The 60-year-old congressman said the behavior of Morford and his associates "has evolved into tactics of such powerful threats and intimidation that the potential loss of life by means of suicide is possible."

Traficant said the court's failure to hold a hearing on such willful, mammoth misconduct would constitute grave error because the allegations concern the lives of intimidated witnesses as well as the loss of liberty and other rights.

Here are Traficant's three questions filed Friday:

U"Did you threaten arrest for perjury when no statements had ever been made?"

U "Did you threaten and intimidate witnesses by instructing them that their failure to agree with the government's position would cause them 'to spend several hundred thousand dollars defending themselves?'"

U"Did you and assisting federal attorneys and/or agents conspire to pursue as a team, with a strategy to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate, any person in any state, territory, commonwealth, possession or district in the defendant's case, thus violating their free exercise or enjoyment of any rights or privileges secured to him/her by the constitution or laws of the United States?"

meade@vindy.com




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