TRAFICANT CASE Rep calls for House probe
Two Columbus attorneys assisting the congressman say he deserves a new trial.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
and DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. wants an open House ethics committee investigation of his racketeering trial and conviction, including admission of TV cameras to the proceedings.
"I believe my ethics committee process that I'm going to handle myself -- I'm not going to have an attorney -- should be public so the American people can find out what the hell's going on in the courtrooms. ... TV. No private hearings. No back rooms," Traficant said.
Traficant faces possible expulsion from Congress after a jury convicted him on all 10 counts after a 10-week federal trial in Cleveland. His remarks were aired Tuesday on the second of three segments of a TV interview taped here for Fox News by Greta Van Susteren. The third and final segment airs tonight at 10 p.m.
Traficant's return to Y-103 FM's morning show today was canceled by station management because of complaints about his appearance on the program last week. During that show, Traficant complained about the judge, the jury and the government, using profanity that was broadcast because the station does not have an in-studio delay system. Before canceling Traficant's appearance, station management had said they were going to use a delay system with Traficant.
The nine-term congressman repeated his statement that he will run as an independent candidate for re-election in November and added that he must keep his appeal alive to do so. Just as he represented himself in the trial, he said he'll handle his own appeal. "If I'm on the ballot in November, there'll be a donnybrook here, and I may win it," he said. If he goes to prison, he'll write a book, he added.
Traficant said he was not tried by a jury of his peers as required by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because there were no jurors from the Mahoning Valley.
He also repeated his assertion made in Monday's segment that the jurors initially deadlocked 6-6 on convicting him, without explaining how he knew that. "The determinant was: They didn't like the way I treated the judge and came back with a guilty verdict," he said.
"She didn't allow half of my witnesses," Traficant said of U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells.
The congressman has filed a motion for a new trial, and Atty. Percy Squire is seeking to serve as Traficant's co-counsel in a limited capacity. Squire was called as a defense witness in Traficant's trial and has been the congressman's biggest campaign contributor since 1995.
Squire, of Columbus, is asking Judge Wells' permission to serve as the congressman's co-counsel on the sole issue of challenging the lawfulness of the jury selection process.
Because Squire testified on Traficant's behalf during the trial, he needs the judge's permission to serve as the congressman's co-counsel. Squire wrote in the motion that his testimony was not connected to the jury selection process issue so he should be permitted to serve as Traficant's co-counsel.
"The question of whether Mr. Traficant received a trial before a constitutionally selected jury is one of great public importance -- and it would be manifestly unfair to Mr. Traficant to deny him assistance of counsel to present this issue as effectively as possible," Squire wrote.
Along with Squire's motion to the judge were supporting documents claiming Traficant's constitutional rights were violated by the selection of jurors and an affidavit from Deborah Wasserman, who Squire says is an expert in demographic research. Wasserman wrote that the selection of jurors excludes those from the Youngstown area at a higher percentage than other areas in the Northern District of Ohio.
The motions also list Lloyd Pierre-Louis, a Columbus attorney, as legal counsel. Pierre-Louis said he is working on the case for Traficant because "it's a good, solid issue."
Squire, a former Youngstown resident, is Traficant's single largest campaign contributor since 1995, giving the congressman $9,400 during that time.
In a motion filed Monday, Traficant asked for 30 days to provide more evidence that he should have a new trial. Traficant is to be sentenced June 27.