The new judge presided over ex-congressman James Traficant's trial in 1983.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- To avoid any appearance of impropriety, U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells will not preside over the case of a Virginia engineer accused of conspiring to bribe imprisoned ex-congressman James A. Traficant Jr.
In an order filed Friday in federal court in Cleveland, Judge Wells recused herself from the case of Richard E. Detore, who once served as chief operating officer at USAerospace Group in Manassas, Va. USAG, owned by J.J. Cafaro of Liberty, which went out of business in early 2000.
Judge Wells' husband, Charles F. Clarke, is a partner at Squire Sanders & amp; Dempsey, which has more than 700 lawyers. The firm had performed legal work on behalf of USAG.
Clarke never represented Cafaro, USAG or the Cafaro Company, court papers show.
Judge Wells, who presided over Traficant's trial, declined to preside over Cafaro's case because of the potential conflict. Cafaro pleaded guilty in May 2001 to providing Traficant with an illegal gratuity and will be sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.
Judge Wells became aware through a transcript of testimony Detore gave July 16 to a U.S. House of Representatives ethics subcommittee that he had a financial interest in USAG. Detore said at the hearing that he had 2.5 percent "holding in, ownership in" the company.
Judge Wells stepped off the case "to avoid any possible appearance of impropriety."
Detore's trial is set for Nov. 12. U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich has taken over the case.
Judge Aldrich presided over Traficant's first bribery and tax evasion trial in 1983. He had been accused of taking $163,000 in mob bribes during his successful run for Mahoning County sheriff in 1980.
He won acquittal representing himself but later lost a civil tax case and had to pay tax on the mob money he failed to claim as income.
After four years as sheriff, Traficant won election in 1984 to the U.S. House of Representatives.
He served as the 17th District congressman until July 24, when the House expelled him. The expulsion followed his 10-count conviction in April on charges of racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.
Judge Wells sentenced him July 30 to eight years in prison.
Traficant is serving his sentence at a federal prison in central Pennsylvania.
Detore is accused of taking part in Cafaro's efforts to financially reward Traficant for Traficant's promotion of USAG technology with federal agencies.