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TELEVISION Traficant's wife appears on Fox's 'On the Record'



Published: Thu, August 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The ex-congressman's wife admitted that her husband's hair was a 'nightmare.'

YOUNGSTOWN -- Tish Traficant and her imprisoned husband share the belief that he was railroaded.

The wife of ex-congressman James A. Traficant Jr. was a guest Wednesday night on Fox News Channel's "On the Record," hosted by Greta Van Susteren. James Traficant, convicted of racketeering and tax crimes in April, is imprisoned in central Pennsylvania for the next eight years.

Mrs. Traficant said everyone told her that he would likely receive three to five years. She appeared on the broadcast with her lawyer, Heidi Hanni Wolff.

"How'd he take it?" Van Susteren asked of the lengthy sentence.

"He took it in stride," Mrs. Traficant said. "When it happened, it was awful -- like my breath was sucked away."

Mrs. Traficant said she didn't attend her husband's trial because she didn't want to distract him and because "I couldn't sit there and listen to those lies." She complained that he wasn't allowed to bring forward his own witnesses and evidence.

Traficant, when he arrived for sentencing on July 30, shouted to print, radio and TV reporters that the world knows he was railroaded. He claimed the government pressured witnesses to lie and U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells denied him a fair trial.

Words for Wells

Mrs. Traficant said the evidence presented at trial was preposterous, and she had harsh words for Judge Wells.

"I thought she was controlled by the FBI. I thought she was put there for a reason. At times, I thought, what do they have on her?"

She offered an explanation for her husband's decision to represent himself, even though he's not a lawyer.

"He had lawyers assisting him, telling him what to do, or, you know, helping him with issues and what was the law. He did have some input, but he was so fearful of being sold down the river by an attorney," she said.

"You have to understand our background and what happened to us, how many people said they would help us and then turned against us," she added. Mrs. Traficant also found fault with her husband's treatment by a U.S. House of Representatives ethics committee. The House expelled Traficant July 24.

"I was really appalled when he was before the ethics committee. He gave them all the tapes to listen to. They didn't listen to them," she said. "I didn't like some of their actions behind the scenes," she said of some members of Congress.

Traficant's audio tapes contained interviews he conducted with co-defendants. Judge Wells prohibited the tapes at trial, saying the people could have been called as witnesses.

'Never liked to shop'

The Van Susteren interview turned to Traficant's penchant for wearing offbeat clothes and displaying an unconventional hairstyle.

Mrs. Traficant said her husband was more interested in the substance of what people said and how they felt than in his attire.

"Clothes didn't interest him," she said. "What interested him was what came out of people's mouths, what came out of their hearts, their souls,"

When asked about Traficant's unusual hairstyle, she replied, "Who cares?"

Mrs. Traficant, a hairstylist, acknowledged that her husband's hair was "a nightmare," that people had commented to her about his outdated suits and that she had hidden some of his clothing and put some in the trash. "He never liked to shop," she said.

Traficant had to give up his high and fluffy silver-gray toupee when he entered the federal prison system.

Mrs. Traficant said her husband writes humorous and honest letters from prison and that she makes the five-hour, one-way drive to visit him there. She said she is cooperating with lawyers in an effort to get her husband a new trial but doesn't think he'll be granted one.




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