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The congressman was talking jury tampering today when he entered the courthouse.



Published: Fri, February 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman was talking jury tampering today when he entered the courthouse.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- The jury pool for U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. consists mostly of Democratic baby boomers who earn an average of $60,000 annually and know at least something about his racketeering case.

Aside from their political leanings, age, income and knowledge of the case, 103 prospective jurors who filled out the 42-page questionnaires listed where they live, work and how they play. Nearly every field, from engineer, cook and truck driver, to secretary, teacher and computer technician, is represented.

Suggests jury tampering: The completed questionnaires were made available to the press this week in a courthouse press room. Traficant said today upon entering the courthouse that he was filing a motion suggesting that there may have been jury tampering. He questioned how the press received the questionnaires.

Two-thirds of the jury pool is over 40 with an average age of 51.

The pool consists of 43 men and 60 women. Most are married and have children.

There are 53 Democrats, 22 Republicans, and 28 who circled "none" for party affiliation.

Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, has vehemently denounced the pool, saying it's unfair that none of the potential jurors live in Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties. U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells has told him, more than once, that jurors are drawn by courthouse location and that he's no different from any other criminal defendant.

The 60-year-old congressman had half of Wednesday and all day Thursday to review the questionnaires.

Jury selection got under way again today. Judge Wells will seat 12 jurors and six alternates for the trial, which could last eight weeks.

Think he's guilty: Some potential jurors offered succinct explanations as to why they should not be picked.

"I believe he's guilty," a 53-year-old Democrat from Conneaut wrote on his questionnaire.

A 33-year-old Cleveland man took it a step further: "I believe this guy is crooked and should go straight to jail." The prospective juror is single, works in sales, earns more than $80,000 a year and describes himself as a "very liberal" Democrat.

"I don't even want anything to do with it," a retired Jefferson woman said.

A University Heights dental assistant who lived in Mahoning County in the 1980s remembers Traficant as sheriff and doesn't want to serve. The 48-year-old woman identified herself as a conservative Democrat.

A Mayfield Heights woman said she has trouble concentrating.

"Eight weeks is too long," a Grafton man said.

A Strongsville woman who has family in Mahoning County said she wouldn't be impartial.

Variety of reasons: "It is not my job to judge anyone -- that is God's job," said a 59-year-old maintenance worker from Strongsville. He added that his church doesn't want him to be a juror.

A Jefferson teacher said she just wouldn't feel comfortable "doing this."

A 54-year-old teacher of special-needs children thinks two months is too long to be gone from them. The Garfield Heights woman, a Democrat, knows very little about the case from news outlets.

An expectant father said he doesn't want to miss the birth. The 25-year-old Brook Park man, a carpenter, indicated some knowledge of Traficant, gleaned from press accounts.

For a North Ridgeville woman, the prospect of winter driving is reason enough, in her mind, to be excluded.

Looking forward to it: Others seem eager to serve.

A man who does bridge construction maintenance said "it's hard not to know something about Traficant." The 44-year-old Brunswick man wants to be a juror, believing the trial will be interesting.

"I think it will be fascinating," said a 45-year-old Mentor woman. She's a Democrat who does accounts payable work and earns more than $100,000 annually.

A 62-year-old Cleveland man, who has six grown children and works at a thrift store, said it would be a new experience. He knows virtually nothing about the case.

meade@vindy.com




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