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Hair today gone tomorrow



Published: Sun, August 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)




Poor Frank Lordi, he truly was the Rodney Dangerfield of politics. He got no respect. First, Lordi was indicted in 1998 on 18 criminal charges, making him look like bank robber Willie Sutton. He was a Mahoning County commissioner at the time. Then, when he was booked into the Mahoning County Justice Center on Jan. 9, 2001, he was forced to remove his wig for the mug shot. It was a shot seen round the Mahoning Valley because state law considers such photographs public documents.

And finally, Lordi spent eight months in a state penitentiary after being convicted on one count of theft-in-office. The jury found that while a commissioner, he had county employees do political work on county time. The value of the time the employees spent doing the work? A whopping $200.

But it was the mug shot of Lordi with his almost hairless pate that became a rib tickler. After all, throughout his political career, he had presented himself to the public with a head of hair.

Today, Lordi goes au naturel. He was released from prison in January of this year after being granted shock parole by the Ohio Parole Board.

Now consider the experience of expelled Congressman James A. Traficant Jr., who is serving an eight-year sentence in the Allenwood Federal Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania. Last year, Traficant, who was in his ninth term as the 17th District representative, was indicted on 10 criminal charges, including bribery, conspiracy and racketeering. In May 2001, as part of his arraignment in federal court -- he pleaded innocent -- Traficant was required to be fingerprinted and to have his mug shot taken.

The question

But the picture that was made public via the press showed him as his usual self -- with his trademark clump of hair atop his head. Long-time Traficant watchers were disappointed because they had expected the photograph to answer the question: Is it a hairpiece?

But through all of 2001 and throughout the 10-week trial in U.S. District Court in Cleveland -- it ended in April with a jury finding him guilty of all 10 charges -- Traficant was able to maintain his enhanced look. He even made jokes about his hair, but only to the extent of suggesting that its appearance was the result of the way he styled it (with a weed whacker).

Then two weeks ago, after he was sentenced by Judge Lesley Brooks Wells and remanded to the custody to federal marshals, the anticipation of his finally being exposed mounted. He was sent to the Summit County Jail to await permanent assignment to a federal pen.

Yes, he was booked into the jail -- but the mug shot that was taken again had Traficant as his usual self. However, it was reported that he was required to remove the hairpiece when he was sent to his cell, but was permitted to keep the partial rug with him. (A chia pet, perhaps?)

Again the question: Why wasn't Traficant required to take it off before his mug was shot in jail?

(Poor Frank Lordi.)

But the third time's a charm, right? Thus, when the expelled Democratic congressman and former Mahoning County sheriff was transported to the low-security federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania, Traficant watchers knew the truth would finally be revealed. After all, the federal prison officials show no mercy.

Political fakery

And so it was that James A. Traficant Jr., whose hairpiece had become a symbol of his political fakery, stood before the camera and was shot -- in his balding glory. Finally, the world would get to see the true man. Wrong.

Once again fate has played a cruel joke on the Mahoning Valley. The mug shot of Traficant without his hairpiece will not be made public by the federal Bureau of Prisons. Why? Because of the asinine contention of the federal government that the photograph is not a public document and, therefore, can only be released to the press with Traficant's permission.

There is reason to hope, however. Even though he is behind bars, Traficant is on the November general election ballot as an independent candidate for the reconfigured 17th District Congressional seat. Since he continues to insist that he was railroaded in his criminal trial, that all the government witnesses lied about him, and that he was only one telling the truth, he can demonstrate to the voters that he has nothing to hide -- literally.




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