The congressman will keep his mouth shut about the indictment until he hosts a local radio show in three weeks.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
and PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
YOUNGSTOWN -- The decision to have U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. sit in as host of a popular radio talk show this month was made before his indictment, and the station has no concerns about his appearance.
Bill Kelly, vice president-marketing manager for Clear Channel Communications in this area, including WKBN-AM, said the station welcomes Traficant as host because he was such a success the last time he filled in for Dan Ryan.
"I go into this knowing full well that some people are going to like him being on the air and some people aren't," Kelly said. "We must remember every day that there are people who don't like Dan Ryan, don't like Bob Mangino, don't like Ron Verb. I don't expect 100 percent of the community to like the fact that Jim Traficant's going to be on the station -- so it's not an issue."
Kelly said he has a policy to not comment on ratings. "If we didn't think he would bring radio listeners to the station, we wouldn't invite him to be on the air."
No comment on case: Traficant issued a nonstatement statement Monday about his indictment on 10 felony counts including bribery, racketeering and conspiracy to defraud.
In a six-sentence prepared comment, Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, said, "I will make no statements regarding this case." The normally talkative congressman had previously said he would make a public statement Monday about the indictment.
The congressman used the public statement to plug his May 29 to June 1 appearance on Ryan's show, saying he will address issues about the case at that time.
"In addition, I will be releasing my information on my investigation regarding the United State Department of Justice and the FBI corruption in northeastern Ohio," he wrote.
"Finally, where's the murder charge and where's the mob charge that were the 'subject of leaks' during my past campaigns? The 'leaking of information' by a federal employee is a felony, and I will continue to investigate these leaks."
Pondering indictment: Traficant wants to take some time to review the charges before he says anything about them, said Charles Straub, his spokesman.
"Frankly, I think it's a smart move," he said. "It's not typical Jim Traficant, but it's a prudent thing. With it being a court matter ... he's got to proceed very carefully."
Traficant was vocal about the indictment hours before it was publicly released Friday, saying he was waiting to be served and that he was prepared to take on federal prosecutors in court.
Traficant is somewhat relieved by the indictment because it ends many months of "speculation and anticipation" about the charges, said Straub, who has spoken to the congressman a number of times since Friday's indictment.
"He's getting ready and getting into the mode to make a vigorous defense," Straub said.
Won't resign: Traficant, who won his ninth term to Congress last year, has no plans to resign, Straub said. If he were to be convicted of a felony, he would have to resign or face censure by fellow Congress members.
Traficant, a nonlawyer who will defend himself in court, is concerned about the trial's conflicting with his congressional schedule.
"He takes his job here very seriously," Straub said. "He's got an excellent voting record. He rarely misses a vote. There's nothing that says he has to make every vote, but missing them would concern him."
The trial has been set for July 16. The House takes recess in August.
Despite the indictment and being inundated with calls from dozens of news organizations, it is business as usual in Traficant's office, Straub said.
"We're proceeding as an office would, and the focus is on constituent services," he said.
Arraignment Friday: Traficant will be arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court in Youngstown before Magistrate Judge George J. Limbert.
The indictment accuses Traficant of accepting cash, meals, free labor and materials at his horse farm in Greenford and his former houseboat in Washington, D.C., in exchange for political favors. He also is accused of taking kickbacks from members of his congressional staff and having staffers do manual labor for him on government time.