The ex-congressman's theatrical speech wasn't unlawful, his lawyer says.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- James A. Traficant Jr.'s lawyer wants the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to overrule a trial judge's order that denied the imprisoned ex-congressman bond pending appeal.
In a 29-page motion filed with the appellate court, Columbus lawyer Percy Squire argues that Traficant is not a flight risk and poses no danger to the community. Squire said the issues that Traficant has raised -- flawed jury selection and double jeopardy -- are likely to lead to a new trial "or his discharge without further punishment."
Traficant objected to not having jurors from Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties. He believes that expulsion from the U.S. House of Representatives was punishment enough and that his prison sentence represents double jeopardy.
In remanding Traficant to custody on July 30, U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells concluded that Traficant had violated the conditions of his bond and does represent a flight risk. The 61-year-old Poland man is serving his eight-year sentence on corruption and tax convictions at a federal prison in White Deer, Pa.
Judge Wells, in her decision, gave examples of threats Traficant made about what he would do to FBI agents and how he refused to allow a home inspection or provide the whereabouts of his firearms.
Squire said comments made on the House floor are protected speech and Traficant has become famous for theatrical diatribe without threat of unlawful conduct. "His antics on the floor of Congress are protected as well as any theatrical statements he has made on television or to other media," Squire said.
The judge also cited Traficant's refusal to provide financial information, his unauthorized trip to Pennsylvania to interview a prosecution witness, and a comment he made near the end of trial about not returning to her court.
'Record of compliance'
Squire said the judge did not consider the totality of the circumstances. He said Traficant never missed a court appearance, was not convicted of crimes of violence and has been a lifelong resident of Mahoning County.
The unauthorized trip to Pennsylvania, Squire said, was the only time Traficant departed from the terms of his bond conditions in 14 months. Traficant had been placed on $50,000 unsecured bond when indicted in May 2001.
Squire said Traficant's overall conduct reflects "a record of compliance, not defiance."
Traficant, as a Congressional candidate in the Nov. 5 general election, needs to remain in the area in order to seek election, Squire said in his motion. It is highly unlikely, Squire said, that a well-known figure seeking election in the 17th District would attempt to flee.