TRAFICANT CASE 3rd motion includes 2 affidavits
There's no indication that a man taped by the congressman knew that he was being recorded.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. looked no further than his own indictment to find two men he says can prove the "Gestapo government" did whatever it took to frame him.
The 17th District congressman filed another motion in U.S. District Court that mirrors the first two he filed to accuse Craig S. Morford, lead prosecutor in his case, of "mammoth misconduct." The government has called the accusations "wild."
Traficant began with 62 accusatory questions that he wants to ask Morford at an evidentiary hearing, if U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells agrees such a hearing is necessary. His second motion provided three more questions and, last Friday, the judge ordered him to submit affidavits to back up his claims.
The latest motion includes two affidavits, a letter and a 27-page transcript.
The letter is from Henry A. DiBlasio and the transcript reflects comments made by Richard Detore. Both men are referenced in Traficant's 10-count indictment.
Transcript of tape: The new motion, filed Tuesday, tacks on 11 more questions, making 76 he has for Morford. Traficant culled the 11 questions from the transcript of an audiotaped conversation he had Aug. 1 with Detore, former chief operating officer with the U.S. Aerospace Group in Virginia.
J.J. Cafaro, of the mall development family, was once affiliated with USAG and has pleaded guilty to bribing Traficant in return for Traficant's using his influence to promote USAG laser-guidance technology. Cafaro's bribe was nearly $40,000, which included cash, repairs to and purchase of the congressman's houseboat.
There's no indication from the transcript that Detore knew he was being taped.
The 60-year-old congressman waited until they hung up to say: "That was Richard Detor[e] ... This conversation involved the behavior of the government, the FBI, the U.S. attorneys and their extortion."
In Traficant's indictment, the government said that, from April 1998 through December 1999, USAG paid $3,219 for meals at the Taverna in Washington, D.C., for Traficant and Detore, identified only by his title in the indictment.
Traficant; Cafaro; Albert Lange, USAG chief engineer; and Detore agreed to conceal Cafaro's purchase of the congressman's houseboat by making it appear as though Lange bought the boat, the government said, identifying Lange only by his title in the indictment.
Throughout the taped conversation, Detore laments that he did nothing wrong and complains about being threatened with an IRS audit and encouraged by Morford and others to lie or be indicted as a co-conspirator. He talks about being at the breaking point and blowing his head off.
Traficant repeatedly asks questions, such as: "Yeah, but the bottom line is Morford let you know in no uncertain terms if you lied your problems would all go away and if you didn't, boy, you were going to end up in jail?"
Detore answered, "Yes."
"It's just been a nightmare of unbelievable proportions," Detore said. "I really feel that I'm living in Red China."
Perjury accusation: In the transcript, Traficant and Detore repeatedly refer to Cafaro as a liar.
The congressman said Cafaro committed perjury during the 1997 racketeering trial of Phil Chance, Mahoning County sheriff at the time. Cafaro testified at the trial about $15,000 he gave Chance.
Chance reported the money as his own loan to his sheriff's campaign. He is now in a federal prison.
At one point in the tape, the ninth-term congressman said: "I'm afraid to death, but I'm going after these bastards. This is not what America's supposed to be. We shouldn't have to fear our god------ Gestapo government."
Responses: Traficant, who wants to call Detore as a witness, was told by the former USAG executive to contact his Washington lawyer, Plato Cacheris, who once represented Monica Lewinsky. Cacheris' office told The Vindicator that he is out of the country.
"There is no need to respond to Congressman Traficant's self-serving allegations," Cafaro's Cleveland lawyer, Geoffrey S. Mearns, said Wednesday. "Suffice it to say, I was present every moment when Mr. Cafaro met with the Justice Department attorneys and government agents and in all our meetings they treated Mr. Cafaro fairly and with professional courtesy."
Mearns said neither he nor Cafaro was present when Detore met with the government and therefore cannot speak to how Detore was treated.
Mearns said Cafaro has acknowledged his wrongdoing and accepts responsibility.
Former aide's letter: DiBlasio, meanwhile, was Traficant's longtime administrative assistant. The retired Boardman lawyer, now living in Florida, sent Traficant a letter dated Jan. 24, 2000, and the congressman filed it this week as proof of the intimidation he says was used on witnesses in his case.
Traficant's indictment says that DiBlasio met in November 1998 with Atty. R. Allen Sinclair and acknowledged that he (DiBlasio) had diverted a portion of his salary to Traficant and explained the procedure. Sinclair, hired then as administrative counsel, was to cash his check each month, put $2,500 in an envelope and slip it under the door at 11 Overhill Road in Boardman, once a Traficant district office rented from DiBlasio, then from Sinclair.
DiBlasio and Sinclair are listed only by their titles in the indictment.
Sinclair's kickbacks to Traficant commenced in December 1998 and continued until early January 2000, the government said. He has been cooperating with the government.
"I was obviously contacted in their attempt to coerce me to agree to certain allegations that are absolutely not true," DiBlasio said in his letter, which is not a sworn statement. He said IRS Special Agent Charles L. Perkins and FBI Special Agents Michael S. Pikunas and John E. Stoll visited him in Florida and "made it clear they were out to find information that could or would be used against you."
DiBlasio said they pressed him to admit things he did not do, such as give back part of his pay and part of the Overhill Road office rent to Traficant.
Reached Wednesday in Cleveland, FBI Special Agent Robert Hawk, bureau spokesman, had no comment.
Affidavit: Traficant's first affidavit came from John Innella, no address given, who related a conversation he says he overheard Traficant have with Henry Nemenz, owner of several grocery stores in Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
Nemenz's construction company did work at Traficant's horse farm in Greenford and never received full payment, The Vindicator reported last year after interviewing a grand jury witness.
Innella quoted Nemenz as saying "Morford put words in my mouth" and that his lawyer told him to "tell Morford what they want to hear so that he would not be indicted."
Innella said Traficant and Nemenz agreed the construction bill had been paid.
"At the time, Henry Nemenz did have a chance encounter with Traficant at a local restaurant following a Rotary meeting and Traficant was with another gentleman whose identity is unknown to Nemenz but who may very well be Mr. Innella," J. Gerald Ingram, Nemenz's Boardman lawyer, said Wednesday.
"Henry Nemenz denies and disputes the words attributed to him by Mr. Innella and denies that he was ever coerced or cajoled by the government."
Ingram said Nemenz voluntarily met with Morford.
"I attended every meeting as Mr. Nemenz's legal adviser, and at no point was there an air of intimidation or any impropriety," Ingram said.
Naples statement: The congressman's second affidavit was signed by Patrick J. Naples Jr., who owns a construction company and works as a part-time police officer in Lowellville.
Naples is a former Mahoning County reserve deputy first commissioned in 1982, when Traficant was sheriff. Naples' affidavit alleges misconduct by Morford, saying he shared confidential information. Also, without being specific, he alludes to wrongdoing by Sheriff Randall A. Wellington when he served as Youngstown police chief.
Naples, who expressed mistrust for FBI agents in Youngstown, said Morford told him to deal with FBI Special Agent Jeff Sadlak, who had been sent here "to help clean up that office."
Naples' personnel file shows that Wellington pulled his reserve deputy commission in April 2000 after giving him the opportunity to resign, which he did. Naples tried to withdraw his resignation by saying he was under mental distress and coerced, but the sheriff rejected it in a return letter, saying the letter only served to underscore his decision to terminate Naples.
Reached at home, Naples said Wellington will say that he didn't pass a polygraph test and that's why he was told to resign. Naples said the sheriff's department won't give him the polygraph results.