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WKBN Traficant avoids talk of case, tells of FBI-mob link



Published: Wed, May 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman said talking about his pending criminal case would prompt prosecutors to move his case out of Cleveland.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

BOARDMAN -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. promised to expose corruption in the U.S. Department of Justice and talk about his 10-count criminal indictment during his stint as guest host of WKBN-AM's morning show.

He did not do much of either during his first day on the air.

What he did do: Traficant of Poland, D-17th, gave his standard lines about his case: He would defend himself; his odds of winning are astronomical, but he will succeed; and he will fight "the undefeated U.S. attorneys like a junkyard dog."

When asked after Tuesday's radio appearance why he did not discuss the case, Traficant at first insisted he never promised to do so. When pressed further and told he issued a press release saying he would talk about the case on the show, Traficant said to do so would have been a mistake.

"It would have been improper to talk about it," he said. "I don't even know what the case is. I haven't gone to discovery. I will have to see the case and go from there."

Traficant, charged with bribery, racketeering and tax evasion, said if he talked about the case, federal prosecutors would seek to move the trial out of Cleveland. Traficant said that is where he wants the case to be heard.

His evidence: After the broadcast, Traficant released documents he says show certain local FBI officials were on the Mafia payroll. The congressman added that the documents show former local Mafia boss Charles Carabbia was the victim of a mob hit and the FBI did nothing to investigate the case.

The documents include the testimony of a Mafia member in front of a U.S. Senate committee in 1988, the 1998 statement of a "mob informant," a 2000 affidavit of a Girard woman, a 2000 affidavit of a Traficant staffer, and a 1996 wiretap of former local mob boss Lenny Strollo.

He then said it was the local media's responsibility to carry on his investigation.

Traficant's radio appearance attracted a national audience with the show simulcast by C-SPAN.

Listening audience: Traficant took numerous calls, but only one from the Mahoning Valley -- that of a former deputy who worked for the congressman when he was Mahoning County sheriff. Traficant said he gave preference to national callers because of the C-SPAN simulcast and would take local callers the rest of the week. Also, radio stations in Cleveland and Toledo broadcast the show live.

Objection: Traficant drew about 50 protesters to the Clear Channel offices on South Avenue. The protesters said Clear Channel was wrong for giving Traficant an open public forum he could use to poison the potential jury pool for his trial, which is set to begin Feb. 4.

Bill Kelly, Clear Channel's vice president and market manager, said he was satisfied with Traficant's first day on the air.

"The board was full of calls," he said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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