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Whereabouts are still a mystery for 600-pound welding machine



Published: Sat, April 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The FBI intends to pursue the possibility that perjury was committed at the trial.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

VIENNA -- No one in law enforcement is looking for the 600-pound welder that U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. accused the FBI of taking -- because it hasn't been reported missing.

As of Friday, the FBI, Trumbull County Sheriff's Department and Vienna Township Police Department had no record of the welder's being taken from the Youngstown-Kingsville Road home of Brian K. Kidwell.

Vienna Chief Dave Ovesny said a report was filed just before midnight April 4 that dealt with a menacing complaint. It was filed by a Youngstown-Kingsville Road man unconnected to the Traficant case who said his red Honda was chased by a gray minivan.

In the minivan

It turns out those inside the minivan included Mike Antonoff of Boardman, Traficant's subpoena server. Antonoff, who accused the FBI of trying to interfere with his duties, told police he was trying to serve a subpoena on Kidwell.

At a press conference on April 6 in Canfield, Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, announced that the welder -- which he had intended to use as a trial exhibit -- had been taken from Kidwell, a metalworker.

Five days after the press conference, a jury found Traficant guilty of all 10 corruption and tax counts he faced. He will be sentenced June 27.

J.J. Cafaro of the mall development family gave the $2,900 welder to Traficant in 1999 as a gift in return for favors, according to testimony in the congressman's racketeering trial.

Traficant immediately turned the machine over to Kidwell, according to testimony.

Traficant had wanted the welder to build an aluminum horse trailer with sleeping quarters, a witness testified.

At the press conference, Traficant quoted Kidwell as saying three big white men in a blue pickup truck took the welder on March 22. "I became very nervous and afraid when I realized that these men were not sent by Congressman Traficant for the purpose of having the welder delivered to the Cleveland court," Kidwell wrote in an affidavit read at the press conference.

A listed phone number for Kidwell could not be found.

Testified for defense

Kidwell testified March 25 as a defense witness. Traficant, relaying what he had been told by Kidwell, informed U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells the welder was to arrive that day but the trailer carrying it had broken down on the Ohio Turnpike.

At the press conference, Traficant sat alongside Dominic Marchese, a congressional staffer and Johnson Township trustee; Mark S. Colucci, a Youngstown attorney; and Kidwell. Colucci said then that a report about the welder would be filed as soon as possible with Vienna Township police and the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department.

Colucci said Friday that the reports will be filed Monday morning. He said those aiding Traficant were sidetracked by calls for the congressman to resign.

Traficant alleged at the press conference that the only ones who stood to gain by "keeping physical evidence from the jury" was the FBI. He had wanted to show the jury that the welder had not been used.

FBI Special Agent John Kane, in charge of the bureau's Boardman office, said Friday that he received no report about the missing welder.

Perjury?

Kane said once Traficant is sentenced, the FBI will review the possibility that certain defense witnesses may not have given truthful testimony at the trial.

"We won't walk away, that's wrong," Kane said. "If we allowed [perjury] to happen it would bring the whole judicial system down."

Kane said no one should lie in court, lie to a grand jury or lie to the FBI.

Kidwell testified at the trial that he needed the welder to make aluminum trailers for Cafaro's now-defunct USAerospace Group once the prototype had been built by someone else. A company in Canfield had been chosen to build a prototype aluminum trailer to carry the landing lights technology, Cafaro testified.

When Craig S. Morford, lead prosecutor, questioned Kidwell, he acknowledged that he had no letter, no contract, no orders from USAG, only drawings for the trailer given to him by Traficant. Kidwell didn't find it strange that USAG would do business with a welder working out of his garage.

Kidwell also served as Traficant's alibi witness.

Kidwell said he picked up Traficant at Youngstown State University after a meeting Nov. 14, 1998, and that the congressman had been with a short man with gray hair, not with Cafaro.

Cafaro testified that he gave Traficant $13,000 cash as they drove around the YSU campus that day.

meade@vindy.com




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