Rep decides against press conference
The congressman will resume his normal routine of spending Tuesday through Thursday in Washington.
By PATRICIA MEADE
and DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORTERS
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. decided not to talk to reporters today about his indictment, but will be back in town for his arraignment Friday morning in federal court here.
The 17th District congressman -- indicted Friday on 10 counts that include bribery, racketeering and tax evasion -- has resumed his normal routine of traveling to Washington, D.C., every Monday, a spokeswoman said today. Traficant typically returns home to Poland every Thursday from the nation'scapital.
The congressman, who turns 60 on Tuesday, had said he would conduct a press conference today to discuss the charges against him. He maintains his innocence and intends to serve as his own lawyer at trial.
"I will make a public statement on Monday, May 7, and am waiting for all the information to come down," Traficant said in a prepared statement Friday.
Instead, his spokeswoman said Traficant would issue a press release today on his response to the indictment.
Arraignment set: Traficant is scheduled to appear for arraignment Friday morning before Magistrate Judge George J. Limbert. The magistrate will set bond and then relinquish the case to U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells in Cleveland.
Just hours before the indictment was handed up Friday afternoon, Traficant said the long-term federal investigation -- which started more than two years ago -- has not been good for his health.
"I don't sleep very well," he told reporters. "I'm as frightened as anyone would be in my position."
Text of indictment: The 41-page indictment describes a greedy elected official who, instead of paying his bills, offered to use his position if those he owed money made his debts go away. He also had staff members do manual labor on his houseboat in Washington, D.C., and at his horse farm in Greenford, the government said.
He accepted cash, expensive dinners, free labor and materials at the farm, and took kickbacks from high-ranking congressional staff members such as Charles O'Nesti, former district director, and Atty. R. Allen Sinclair, the government said.
O'Nesti, who pleaded guilty in an unrelated organized crime enterprise in 1998, died in February 2000, before being sentenced.
Other participants in the criminal acts included local developer John J. Cafaro, vice president of the Cafaro Co., who will plead guilty; contractors Anthony and Robert Bucci; contractor A. David Sugar, who has pleaded guilty; and others. The Vindicator used public records to identify Sinclair's involvement.
It's the second time the FBI says Traficant took bribes and evaded taxes. When he was Mahoning County sheriff in August 1982, FBI agents handcuffed him after his indictment. He won acquittal the next year.
This time, a summons replaced the formal arrest with handcuffs.
Interested in seat: Also today, Boardman lawyer Lou D'Apolito said he would be interested in running for Traficant's seat should the congressman resign or be removed if he is convicted.
Others expressing interest include state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd; Republican Paul Alberty of Poland; Randy Walter, a Canfield real estate developer; and Trumbull County Commissioner Michael O'Brien of Warren. All of the potential candidates but O'Brien lost to Traficant last year in either the Democratic primary or the general election.
Capri Cafaro, the daughter of J.J. Cafaro, had plans to run for the seat next year. Capri Cafaro lists U.S. Aerospace Group as her employer on federal campaign contribution forms.
J.J. Cafaro plans to plead guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to bribe Traficant for helping him with U.S. Aerospace Group, his laser-guidance system company.
What would happen: If Traficant leaves Congress before his term expires Dec. 31, 2002, the Ohio governor would call partisan primary elections and schedule a general election for a few weeks later.
The winners of the primaries and any independent candidates who were deemed qualified to run would face off in the general election to fill the unexpired term.