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Trial to be delayed during trip to Florida for deposition



Published: Sun, February 17, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The government had offered to travel to Florida on a Friday, weekend or Monday, a federal holiday.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- At the end of the month, U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s trial will recess for three days while he takes a government-paid trip to Florida with prosecutors to videotape the testimony of a key witness with cancer.

The racketeering trial, which began Feb. 5, will come to a halt for three consecutive days the week of Feb. 25. Which three days will be determined next week.

In an order made available Saturday, U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells granted a request by federal prosecutors to depose via videotape Thomas Williams, a former Ohio Department of Transportation inspector. Williams has cancer, is undergoing chemotherapy and is unable to travel to Cleveland from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to testify.

Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, had objected to the deposition, saying the government has had more than six years to question Williams. The congressman then requested that his travel expenses be paid, and the government agreed.

In her order, Judge Wells tells the government to pay reasonable travel and lodging expenses for Traficant. The congressman will have the opportunity to question Williams during the deposition.

Accusations: Traficant contacted Williams in 1995 and took steps to get him to "back off" paving contractors Anthony and Robert Bucci and threatened to have the ODOT official fired, the government said. Williams supervised paving contractors, such as the Buccis, who did work on state and county highways.

The congressman agreed to seek and accept free labor and materials for his horse farm at 6908 W. South Range Road in Green Township from the Buccis with the intent to be influenced in performing official acts on behalf of the contractors, the government said.

The prosecution team had offered to do the Williams deposition on a Friday, weekend or Presidents Day holiday, which is Monday. Judge Wells releases the jury at noon on Fridays.

In another order made available Saturday, Judge Wells denied a request by the government to have an IRS agent sit in court and listen to testimony. On Jan. 29, the judge had granted Traficant's request for separation of witnesses expected to testify for the government.

The separation means witnesses cannot hear any trial testimony until after they testify.

The IRS agent can, however, review trial transcripts so that he may prepare his testimony regarding the taxability of Traficant's alleged illegal income.

meade@vindy.com




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