TRAFICANT CASE Colucci's no-show irks judge
The lawyer has until Tuesday to explain what happened.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Atty. Mark S. Colucci faces possible court sanctions because he fielded reporters' questions on the steps of U.S. District Court in Cleveland when he should have been in federal court here.
Colucci, who represents James A. Traficant Jr.'s appeal, spoke to the press Tuesday afternoon after the convicted ex-congressman was sentenced to eight years in prison and immediately jailed. Traficant wants the appellate court to overrule the trial court judge's decision to not let him remain free pending the outcome of his appeal.
In a show-cause order, U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus instructed Colucci and Canfield attorney Joseph A. Ferrante to explain by Aug. 6 why they should not be sanctioned for failing to appear in the judge's court at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"The court shall review the responses to the instant order and determine the propriety of any sanctions and/or whether a hearing is necessary to render such a determination," Judge Economus said in his order.
Colucci was out of state and could not be reached.
Memo from judge's aide
Attached to the judge's order is a memo authored by Suzanne Ray, the judge's courtroom deputy, of what transpired with Colucci.
The memo states that a male secretary called the court, saying he was speaking to Colucci by phone, and asked if Colucci could attend the conference via phone. The answer was no, it's not permitted.
"We did, in fact observe Mr. Colucci on television at a press conference outside the Cleveland courthouse following Traficant's sentencing," the memo states. "After several minutes, we again observed Atty. Colucci on television at the Cleveland courthouse."
Colucci called the court at 2:30 and said he could be there in 90 minutes.
He was informed that what he suggested was not acceptable and had he merely requested a continuance it would have saved the court and other counsel unnecessary hardship.
He also was told that his behavior was unacceptable and disrespectful to the judge, the memo states.
"There was dead silence on the other end, and then I said 'Yes.' Atty. Colucci wanted to know who I was and that he was waiting to speak to Judge Economus," the memo states. "I told him that I was courtroom deputy to Judge Economus and what made him think that Judge Economus was going to speak to him. He then said, 'What the hell -- I guess the judge will rule on it however he wants.' "
Judge Economus said in his order that an attorney who manipulates the proceedings in any case unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy personally the excess costs, expenses and attorneys' fees incurred because of such conduct.
Court papers show that neither Colucci nor Ferrante had filed a motion asking to be excused from the case management conference.
The Tuesday court date was scheduled in the civil case of Michele Colon (on behalf of her minor daughter Jackie) vs. Mahoning County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and Mahoning County commissioners. Colucci represents Colon and Ferrante represents the MRDD.
The lawsuit alleges that Jackie Colon was provided inadequate psychiatric care, which resulted in her throwing a baby boy out a second-story window then stabbing him to death in December 2000. The suit also alleges the county is guilty of wrongful imprisonment and cruel and unusual punishment.
Tuesday's conference was attended by Sharon K. Hackett, an assistant Mahoning County prosecutor. Judge Economus granted her motion to file for summary judgment within 30 days.
Ferrante, who was in trial, called Judge Economus' office at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and apologized, saying there was no excuse for his absence, court papers show.