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PATRICIA MEADE A congressman and a gentleman?



Published: Sun, April 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



CLEVELAND -- No character witness for U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. talked about his good manners.

Wouldn't it have been beneficial for the jury to hear a recap of his courtroom decorum?

The jurors -- nine women and three men -- should have been told about his social skills.

They saw some displays of his ability to interact with propriety, but not nearly enough.

They missed a lot sitting back in the jury room for hours on end while he argued with U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells.

The long breaks, the jury should know, was just his way of letting them catch up on their reading. They could have used the time to doze off, too.

That kindness should have been mentioned.

The character witnesses didn't even give a hint as to how many times, in nine weeks of trial, the congressman interrupted Judge Wells or the prosecution team -- Craig S. Morford, Bernard A. Smith and Matthew B. Kall.

By constantly interrupting, Traficant was able to test the court reporters' skills by seeing if they could take down two conversations at once.

Why wasn't this thoughtfulness described?

Unforgivable.

Taking the pressure off: The character witnesses didn't point out how he shouted, screamed, yelled, roared, bellowed and hollered at the top of his lungs at the judge and prosecution team.

Sometimes the shouting was accompanied by wild flinging of his arms.

By raising his voice and looking out of control -- while interrupting -- he was able to draw attention to himself.

Why was that all left out? Didn't it demonstrate his ability to take the pressure off others?

Inexcusable omission.

What did the character witnesses think they were there for?

They didn't focus on how he'd let everyone know when he'd taken a laxative and needed a bathroom break.

It was unthinkable for the character witnesses to ignore his grace under fire.

There wasn't a peep out of the character witnesses about his profanity.

The jury should have learned the number of times he told reporters that prosecutors were getting their a---- kicked and the government didn't have sh--. The charges against him, the jury should have been told explicitly, were bull----.

Sharing knowledge with others is a mark of good manners.

Why did the character witnesses leave all that out?

Go figure.

For those who missed it ...: The character witnesses didn't comment on his keen ability to ask the same questions over and over and over.

By getting the same answer six or seven times, the congressman showed concern for those who may not have been paying rapt attention.

Did the character witnesses point that out? No.

They completely disregarded his courteousness.

Can you believe it?

The character witnesses failed to touch on the congressman's delicate descriptions of the judge and others.

He said prosecutors had the testicles of an ant. The judge shredded the Constitution into toilet tissue, specifically Charmin. The FBI and IRS agents bullied women, children and pets.

All that -- the respect he showed for others-- was ignored by the ineffectual character witnesses.

Where did the congressman get them -- off the street?

Well-mannered colleagues: There wasn't a whisper from the character witnesses about the good manners shown by the congressman's staffer who gave reporters and photographers a middle-finger salute.

The man waved, didn't he? That's congeniality on some level.

Nary a word, either, about the congressman's private investigator who arrived in a black helicopter and knew all about FBI listening devices in breakfast cereals. He shoved a news photographer's camera away for security reasons.

Why was that nice gesture disregarded by the character witnesses?

It was, after all, a reflection on the refined congressman.

The character witnesses also overlooked Traficant's tasteful tantrums, which never caused any physical injury to anyone at any time. Not once.

He threw that heavy box of documents on the floor simply to show his displeasure in an acceptable, mannerly way. The box set sail when the judge wouldn't allow him to have his private investigator describe the FBI listening devices in Froot Loops.

Sparing the jury: In the end, the genteel congressman showed great restraint by not taking the witness stand:

"For me to expose myself to questions which may, in fact, not be necessarily relevant to the issues at hand, but may make a juror question some part of my character or some part of my behavior would be absolutely foolish."

He avoided giving Morford the opportunity to ask discourteous questions that would have surely upset the delicate balance of the dignified trial.

The congressman wasn't about to let his nine-week display of impeccable manners be unjustly and rudely challenged by the prosecutor.

Class act.

meade@vindy.com




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