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TRAFICANT'S CASE Judge rejects request for more time



Published: Sat, September 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman assured the judge in July that he already had his evidence.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s eleventh-hour request for more time to dig up proof of evil-doing by the lead prosecutor on his case has been rejected.

In a two-page order issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells denied his request to extend the Sept. 7 deadline for filing his proof until Oct. 3. Had the judge granted him more time, he wanted to file the evidence under seal for review only by the judge.

"In other words, defendant Traficant asks this court to take the extraordinary step of permitting him a one-sided, private presentation ... while excluding from that presentation the public and counsel for the United States," the judge wrote.

"Defendant has cited no basis in law or fact that would entitle him to such a rare and generally disfavored procedure."

Back in July: Judge Wells reminded the 17th-District congressman that, at a July 20 status conference, he publicly accused Craig S. Morford, an assistant U.S. attorney, of prosecutorial misconduct and assured her that he had affidavits to support the allegation.

She gave him until Aug. 20 to file the affidavits and then extended the deadline to Sept. 7.

"This eleventh-hour request for yet another extension of time to file materials is utterly unjustified and, consequently, is denied," Judge Wells said in her order.

The 60-year-old congressman contended that he has "factual matters" to present to the court but has grave concerns that, if the evidence is exposed publicly, Morford and others will attempt to undermine it through intimidation of witnesses and other misconduct.

"The only misconduct committed in this case is that charged against the congressman," the government has said.

Government's motion: In a 14-page motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, prosecutors asked that Judge Wells deny all of Traficant's motions -- which seek a hearing where he would question Morford -- and prohibit the congressman from raising his accusations at trial Feb. 4.

The congressman has filed a total of 81 accusatory questions, three affidavits, a letter and 27-page transcript.

Prosecutors have dismissed the first two affidavits he filed as either hearsay or irrelevant. They note that the most recent affidavit filed Sept. 7, which they also dismiss as irrelevant, came from a felon.

The letter that he asked a former congressional staffer to write has been recanted and the man committed perjury at the grand jury, the government has said. The transcript, prosecutors said, reflects a conversation Traficant had with an unindicted co-defendant who committed bribery.

Although not a lawyer, Traficant will represent himself at trial on racketeering, bribery and tax evasion charges.

Traficant says that Morford and others acted with malice and that his 10-count indictment was predicated on "trickery, threats, intimidation and coercion."

Traficant wants to question Morford under oath at an evidentiary hearing and if the judge doesn't hold the hearing, the congressman asserts that she would be denying him the right to a fair trial.

Prosecutors want Judge Wells to deny Traficant's request for an evidentiary hearing; deny the congressman's request to call Morford as a witness at trial; deny his request to remove Morford from the case; and prohibit the congressman from raising his accusations at trial.

meade@vindy.com




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