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Morford deserves a quick and fair review of charges



Published: Sun, August 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Fairness demands that the Justice Department expeditiously investigate allegations of prosecutorial misconduct against Craig Morford, the assistant U.S. attorney who is largely responsible for James A. Traficant Jr.'s being behind bars.

Morford is one of three men being considered by the White House for the position of U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and dragging out the investigation could hurt his chances. He already was passed over once -- despite his exceptional record as a federal prosecutor in Cleveland.

The allegations against Morford were made by Richard Detore, the former chief operating officer of USAerospace Group, a Cafaro Co. enterprise, during his sworn testimony before the House ethics committee. The panel was deciding whether Traficant should be expelled from the House.

Detore appeared as a witness for the former 17th District congressman and claimed that Morford and FBI agents wanted him to lie about Traficant when the federal government was building its case against the Poland Democrat.

Detore equated his experience to "a Nazi interrogation" and said that Morford was out of control, shouting and throwing papers and pencils at him.

Denial

The assistant U.S. attorney has denied Detore's allegations. It is important to point out that Detore has been indicted on allegations of bribing Traficant. His trial is scheduled for November.

Therefore, it is fair for the White House to question the motives behind Detore's testimony. Surely he knew that Morford was up for the appointment and that his accusations could be damaging.

Even Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Madison, a friend of Traficant's, said that Detore's testimony might not be credible. LaTourette, a former prosecutor, said people were always claiming that he had engaged in some sort of prosecutorial misconduct. He also said he is not sure whether the testimony has any bearing on Morford's candidacy for the top job in the Justice Department's Cleveland office.

Nonetheless, because Detore testified under oath, the White House should look into the matter.

Last year, when we endorsed Morford for the position we described him as an individual whose credentials "are superior by any standard." There's been no reason for us to change our opinion.

His performance as the chief prosecutor in the Traficant trial, which resulted in the expelled congressman's conviction on 10 criminal charges, was nearly perfect. Traficant, serving as his own lawyer, tried to turn the proceedings into a circus. Morford kept his cool and built his case on the testimony of witnesses and the evidence compiled by the FBI.

Prison sentence

Traficant is serving an eight-year sentence, handed down Tuesday by Judge Lesley Brooks Wells, and while he attempted to denigrate Morford, the jury found that the government had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Traficant's conviction is only part of the FBI's and Justice Department's crackdown on government corruption and organized crime in the Mahoning Valley. As we noted last year, the crime-fighting campaign would not have succeeded to the extent that it did without Morford's commitment to rid the region of corrupt public officials and mobsters.

The fact that mob boss Lenine Strollo entered into a plea agreement with the government and is now a witness for the prosecution is proof of Morford's strength as a prosecutor. Once caught, many of the Valley's criminals sought plea agreements.

Ohio Sens. Mike DeWine and George V. Voinovich submitted three names to the White House for the U.S. attorney's position in Cleveland. We would urge them to reward a dedicated, hard-working, successful prosecutor with their strong support.

We are confident that the White House investigation into Detore's allegations will result in Morford's being vindicated.




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