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Congressman files for new trial



Published: Tue, April 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman wants 30 days to provide more evidence supporting his request for a new trial.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CLEVELAND -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. is seeking a new trial, saying Judge Lesley Brooks Wells violated his rights during his recent corruption trial.

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland on Monday, Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, contends Judge Wells did not allow him a jury of his peers. He has complained that no jurors were drawn from the 17th Congressional District.

Traficant also states that the judge should have allowed the jury to hear testimony from Russell Saadey Jr. and Linda Kovachik.

He added that he wants an additional 30 days to provide more evidence that he should have a new trial.

On April 11, a jury found Traficant guilty of 10 corruption and tax counts. He will be sentenced June 27.

Saadey, of Austintown, testified outside the presence of the jury that his brother-in-law, James R. Sabatine, gave Traficant a $2,400 campaign contribution, not a bribe. Saadey said Sabatine testified to the bribe to protect everything he owns.

Traficant said he destroyed an audiotape of the conversation he had with Saadey that contained that same information and more.

Judge Wells ruled the testimony was hearsay.

Conversation with O'Nesti

Kovachik, of Youngstown, a member of Traficant's staff, tried to testify to a conversation she said she had with Charles P. O'Nesti, Traficant's former district director. She said O'Nesti stated he wasn't kicking back a part of his salary to Traficant.

Judge Wells later had Kovachik testify without the jury present. At that time, she got the conversation backward and quoted O'Nesti as saying: "I had not gotten any kickbacks from Jim."

The motion also asserts that Judge Wells should not have asked the congressman, in front of the jury, if he was going to testify and if he was ready to rest his case.

Along with the motion, Traficant also filed five affidavits from local residents who make allegations about the FBI. Two of the affidavits are from Mike Antonoff of Boardman, Traficant's subpoena server.

Antonoff said that a man who had what looked like an FBI badge took pictures of his house. His wife, Rene Lanzaro Antonoff, also filed an affidavit maintaining the photos were taken.

Second affidavit

In his second affidavit, Antonoff says that he had a conversation with Vienna resident Richard Gerhart, who said he spoke to FBI agents about the relationship between his neighbor, Brian Kidwell, and Traficant. Rick Berger also wrote an affidavit saying he was with Antonoff when he spoke to Gerhart.

At a press conference April 6 in Canfield, Traficant announced that a welding machine he had intended to use as a trial exhibit had been taken from Kidwell, a metalworker. An affidavit from Kidwell, included in Traficant's motion, states that three big white men took the welder from his home.

Traficant asks Judge Wells to force the Department of Justice to provide photographs of agents so they can be identified by the Antonoffs and Kidwell.




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