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YOUNGSTOWN Traficant skips House session to work on criminal defense



Published: Thu, September 6, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



This week marks the return to Washington, D.C., for Congress members after a month recess.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., who rarely misses a vote in Congress, decided to skip the House of Representatives' two-day session this week to stay in the Mahoning Valley and work on his criminal defense, among other things.

Charles Straub, his spokesman, said Traficant "is a stickler for making every vote.

"It's tough for him to be back there [in the Valley]. But there's so little going on. It's an ideal week for him not to be here."

Instead of returning to Washington, D.C., after a monthlong break, Traficant is focusing his attention on filing a motion in his criminal case before Friday's deadline, Straub said. Traficant is under indictment on 10 counts including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion.

The motion accuses assistant U.S. Attorney Craig S. Morford of misconduct. Morford is the lead prosecutor in the congressman's case. Traficant has already filed three motions making the same accusations against Morford, which the government disputes.

House votes: The House took two floor votes Wednesday, one recognizing the important relationship between the United States and Mexico and the other approving the drug-free communities support reauthorization act. Besides Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, 23 other House members skipped the Mexico vote and 27 did not cast votes for the reauthorization act. There are 431 House members.

The House is expected today to consider motions to approve the Vietnam Human Rights Act and a resolution to approve a Vietnamese trade agreement.

"There is congressional business to take care of at home instead of chewing up time with travel," Straub said. "He's working with the staff on casework. He's going to take advantage of the [light] legislative schedule this week and be ready for the full schedule next week."

Congress recessed Aug. 3 and did not resume session until Wednesday.

No appearances: During Traficant's month off, he did not make any public appearances although his office staff said he did constituent work. Also during the month, Traficant filed several motions concerning the criminal indictment he faces.

Straub said the indictment is not affecting Traficant's duties as a congressman. Traficant, a nonlawyer who is defending himself against the charges, has sought delays in the case, saying it is interfering with his congressional duties.

"At this point, I don't see an interference," Straub said. "Certainly, when February comes around, it may be a different story."

Traficant's trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 4.

skolnick@vindy.com




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