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Lifestyle for maverick rep is headed for drastic change



Published: Sun, April 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman could be giving interviews from prison by July.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Don't expect to hear U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. play radio host once he goes to prison.

A major lifestyle change is in store for the congressman, who turns 61 on May 8. He could be in a federal prison as early as July.

Twice last year, after his May 4, 2001, indictment, Traficant substituted for host Dan Ryan on WKBN-AM 570. The congressman used the air time to rail against the FBI, IRS and U.S. attorneys.

Federal prisons allow radio, print and TV interviews -- with permission from the warden -- but that's it, said Dan Dunne, federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman in Washington, D.C. The bureau has a news policy that takes into account security concerns, he said.

Inmate interviews are not to be used for publicity, he said. Once authorization is given, reporters can do phone interviews or visit the inmate and bring along photographers.

Sentencing date: U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells will sentence Traficant on June 27. His trial began Feb. 5 and ended three days ago when the jury found him guilty of racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, says he will appeal. He believes Judge Wells violated his constitutional rights and conducted an unfair trial.

Judge Wells will use federal sentencing guidelines, a presentence investigation report and consider the government's position when determining the length of his term. In past corruption cases, the government has asked for enhanced penalties, based on the public officeholder's role in the racketeering enterprise and other factors.

A good comparison would be ex-Mahoning County Sheriff Phil Chance, convicted in July 1999 of racketeering activity. The government asked that his sentence of just under four years, determined by the sentencing guidelines, be increased to 10 years. The judge agreed, in part, with the government and gave him 71 months.

Placement: Typically, once a defendant is sentenced and the Bureau of Prisons receives all the necessary inmate records, placement can be within two to four weeks, Dunne said. In some cases, it can take a bit longer, he said.

The Bureau of Prisons takes into account societal and medical needs, the length of sentence and a recommendation from the judge, Dunne said. Judges often convey to the Bureau of Prisons requests they receive from the inmate or inmate's family for a specific prison.

Unless there is a concern about Traficant's reporting to prison when told, the congressman will be allowed to report himself, Dunne said. Otherwise, U.S. marshals will transport him.

Inmates are generally placed in a facility near home to allow visitation by family, Dunne said. The closest Federal Correctional Institute is in Elkton, a low-security prison off state Route 154 east of Lisbon .

The bureau has six low- or minimum-security facilities considered near Traficant's home, including those in McKean, Pa., Loretto, Pa., and Morgantown, W.Va.

Once in prison, Traficant will have to give up his trademark denim or polyester bell bottoms, cowboy boots and skinny ties. Typical prison garb is drab-colored cotton pants and shirts that resemble pajamas. Inmates wear sturdy shoes while working and tennis shoes for leisure activities.

Inmates at Elkton are housed dormitory-style and sleep in bunk beds.

Prison day: They rise at 6 a.m., dress in khaki uniforms, and then, after breakfast, put in 71/2 hours of work. Tasks include janitorial, food service, maintenance and groundskeeping.

Leisure time includes television or intramural sports such as softball, basketball, football and soccer. There's also an area for aerobic exercises.

Traficant, if he wants to write a book while in prison, will have to use a typewriter in the law library or write it out in longhand and send the pages out to be typed, Dunne said. Computers are not allowed for safety reasons, he said.

Hairpieces, too, are evaluated based on security concerns that contraband could be hidden underneath, Dunne said. A determination is made at the prison, he said.

Michael Millken, Wall Street junk bond king, was not permitted to keep his hairpiece in prison, Dunne said.

News photos of the congressman's thinning straight hair above his forehead in 1983 don't jibe with the thick and almost curly locks he has been sporting for many years. Reporters who got close to him during the 10-week trial saw the unmistakable telltale signs of a hairpiece.

The loss of freedom in Traficant's near future will put an end to the weekly drives to Washington to deliver his one-minute speeches on the House floor followed by his parting shot: "Beam me up, Mr. Speaker."

Lifestyle: Traficant's lifestyle as a sitting congressman has included being driven, usually by a paid staffer, nearly everywhere he went in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

His time away from Washington allowed him to work at his 76-acre horse farm in Greenford, often aided by paid staffers on federal time. The work included mowing and baling hay and caring for his saddle-bred horses.

For his nine terms, the congressman has enjoyed secluded taxpayer-funded facilities, first in Boardman and now in Canfield, to use with assurance of privacy.

Testimony in the trial showed that his Boardman office included an efficiency apartment above the garage where he often stayed overnight. Likewise, testimony showed that he keeps clothes at the unlisted Canfield office on U.S. Route 224.

The jury that found Traficant guilty also concluded that he owes $96,000 derived from racketeering activity. The judge will decide at sentencing how soon it should be paid.

Since the farm and his residence in Poland are not titled in his name, the government said it cannot seize the properties to pay the forfeiture.

As long as Traficant remains a member of the House -- he could resign or be expelled -- he can collect his congressional paycheck while in prison. His pension is intact because he was not convicted of treason.




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