The government could have asked for a transfer a long time ago, lawyer says.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- Youngstown attorney Don L. Hanni Jr. says the government is "judge shopping" and opposes the transfer of a case that involves James A. Traficant Jr.'s co-defendant.
Hanni represents Richard E. Detore of Virginia, who was added to the Traficant case in October 2001. Detore, accused of bribery conspiracy, asked to be tried separately, and U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells granted the request in early January.
Judge Wells recently recused herself from Detore's case, which then transferred to Judge Ann Aldrich by random draw. The trial is set for Nov. 12.
The government wants Detore's case transferred to Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. Prosecutors argue that it is linked to J.J. Cafaro of Liberty, who will be sentenced by Judge Oliver on Dec. 4.
The government, Hanni said, could have sought to combine the Cafaro and Detore cases in January.
"The government seeks to transfer the case 10 months after it was filed and eight months after it was severed to a basically closed case," Hanni said in a motion filed Wednesday.
Hanni said it is beyond question that the transfer being sought is to put the Detore case into the court of the government's choice. He called it judge shopping and said prosecutors are trying to manipulate the process of case assignment.
Conflict with case
Detore once served as chief operating officer at USAerospace Group in Manassas, Va., owned by Cafaro. In May 2001, the government had wanted Cafaro's case transferred to Judge Wells, but she perceived a conflict and it stayed with Judge Oliver.
Judge Wells' husband, Charles F. Clarke, is a partner at Squire Sanders & amp; Dempsey, which had performed legal work on behalf of USAG. Clarke never personally represented Cafaro, USAG or the Cafaro Company, court papers show.
Cafaro pleaded guilty in May 2001 to providing Traficant with an illegal gratuity.
He testified for the prosecution at Traficant's racketeering trial and is expected to testify against Detore.
Traficant, 61, of Poland was expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives July 24.
Judge Wells became aware through a transcript of testimony Detore gave July 16 to a House 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 said she stepped off Detore's case "to avoid any possible appearance of impropriety."
Traficant is serving eight years in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, after being convicted of corruption and tax crimes in April.