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TRAFICANT IN PRISON Attorney says ex-lawmaker refuses to work in kitchen



Published: Mon, August 19, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The lawyer says the ex-congressman is not bald and that he has a crew cut.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- James A. Traficant Jr. has been placed in lock-down mode after refusing to work in the kitchen at his federal prison, says a lawyer who visited the ex-congressman.

Atty. Don L. Hanni Jr. said he traveled Friday to the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood in White Deer, Pa., and visited for roughly four or five hours with Traficant. The 61-year-old ex-congressman from Poland began serving an eight-year sentence for corruption and tax crimes July 30.

Hanni represents Traficant's co-defendant, Richard E. Detore, a Virginia engineer accused of taking part in a scheme to bribe Traficant.

Hanni told The Vindicator today that Traficant wanted to work in a recreation facility for about $5 per month, but the prison assigned him to kitchen duty, which pays about $60 per month. Prisoners work 71/2 hours each day and, depending on the type of work, earn from 12 cents to $1 per hour.

The ex-congressman refused the kitchen duty and prison officials "took a dim view of his stance and told him 'You either work in the kitchen where we tell you to work or go into isolation,'" Hanni said.

Must sleep on floor

Hanni said Traficant was placed in a two-bunk cell with two other inmates and has to sleep on a mat on the floor. "It's my understanding they stay in lock-up all day" and don't work, the lawyer said.

Hanni said Traficant reasoned that the kitchen job should have gone to one of the inmates on a waiting list for the job who has no family and no money inhis commissary account. The lawyer said Traficant "is still looking out for the working guy."

Dan Dunne, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., said information about inmates' discipline problems cannot be released to the public.

A hearing officer determines if inmates' behavior is not compliant with prison rules and can assign the inmate to a special housing unit within the facility, Dunne explained.

Hanni, who met with Traficant in a consultation room, said it doesn't appear that the ex-congressman will change his mind about working in the kitchen.

The question of hair

The lawyer said Traficant, despite computer-generated photos to the contrary, is not bald. Traficant had to give up his high and fluffy silver-gray toupee when he entered the federal prison system.

"Jim Traficant does have hair -- he is not bald," Hanni said. "From my observation, he didn't need anything on the top. He has a crew cut, so all these pictures of him being a cueball are misinformed."

Hanni described Traficant's mood as upbeat and recalled the ex-congressman saying: "'They can take away my freedom but they can't take away my spirit."

The lawyer dispelled any rumors that Traficant might not continue on as an independent candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the November general election. Until expelled July 24, Traficant had represented the now-reconfigured 17th District for 171/2 years.

"I can assure you he has no intentions of dropping out of the race -- he's going to run and campaign from inside the prison," Hanni said.

"That'll be a neat trick. If he gets elected, I may see that I'm incarcerated myself and run for the Senate."

meade@vindy.com




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