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TRAFICANT INDICTED



Published: Fri, May 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman said the investigation has not been good for his health.

DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

POLAND -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. said today that he heard from reliable sources that a federal grand jury had indicted him, and shortly after noon, it did.

The congressman has been charged in a 10-count indictment.

He faces these charges:

UFour counts of conspiring to violate the federal bribery statute.

UOne count of seeking and accepting illegal gratuities.

UOne count of obstruction of justice.

UOne count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

UTwo counts of filing false tax returns, in 1998 and 1999.

UOne count of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, including bribery and mail fraud.

Waiting for notice: "I'm waiting to be served," said Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, before the indictment was filed in Cleveland. "I had heard there was an indictment and it was yesterday. They could serve it today or next week."

A federal grand jury in Cleveland heard evidence against the congressman for nearly two years. The grand jury considered evidence of bribery, RICO violations, violations of the Hobbs Act (extortion) and tax evasion.

Pressuring witnesses: The congressman said the indictment is being used to pressure potential witnesses and co-defendants to "roll over and give testimony that will help" the U.S. attorney's case. "They were utilizing that indictment to say, 'Look, if you don't want to be in the same shoes, here we are.'"

Traficant said he did not know the specifics of the indictment but expects it to be similar to the multicount indictment of Mickey Monus, Phar-Mor founder.

"They'll throw many counts on the wall and hope some stick," he said.

Colorful analogy: During the press conference today at Poland Seminary High School, Traficant compared himself to a shackled seaman on a boat, standing on the edge of a plank over shark-filled rough waters and being ordered by the captain to jump in. Traficant said he would tell the captain, who he said is the U.S. Attorney's Office, "Are you ready to surrender this ship or not?"

Traficant said the federal investigation has not been good for his health.

"I don't sleep very well," he said. "I'm as frightened as anyone would be in my position."

Legislation push: The congressman introduced legislation Thursday that would allow witnesses to bring their attorneys into grand jury proceedings. Traficant said witnesses in his investigation were "manipulated to put words in their mouth by the U.S. attorneys."

"I've met with several witnesses who were called to the stand who said they were intimidated," he said.

Traficant was at the high school today talking to juniors and seniors about the dangers of alcohol during prom season.




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