TRAFICANT ON TRIAL Ex-chief of staff delivers blow to vendetta theory
The trial resumes Monday with more testimony about contractors.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s vendetta theory took a blow when his former chief of staff quoted his boss as saying: "My only chance is to stay on the offense -- it's the only thing I know how to do."
Paul P. Marcone gave Traficant's quote to a federal grand jury in April 2000 and repeated it Friday in U.S. District Court at Traficant's racketeering trial.
Marcone, press secretary and chief of staff in Washington, D.C., from 1985 to 1989 and 1993 until November 2000, is a prosecution witness.
The trial resumes Monday with Marcone back on the witness stand.
Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, has railed against the FBI, IRS and U.S. attorney's office since December 1999, when his office and phone records were subpoenaed. In his opening statement to jurors Feb. 13, the congressman shouted his vendetta theory, saying he's been a target of the FBI and IRS since 1983, when he won acquittal on bribery charges.
"There is a bias by certain agencies in the government. I am attempting to develop a defense motive. I have almost been stricken of that," Traficant said Friday, kept warm only by a cocoon of reporters as he left court.
"You mean to tell me there's no vendetta? You mean to tell me there's no obsession? When you have a guy who says when I walked out of the courtroom in 1983 they were investigating me as soon as I walked out the door?"
Says he can prove it: Traficant, who never wears an overcoat, told reporters that if U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells allows his witnesses to take the stand, he'll prove a vendetta raged. "I have an affidavit that will come out at trial ... it was a person associated with the FBI who told me that," he said.
Traficant said, at this point, he does not fear the prosecution team. "What I'm telling you right now -- I want you to hear this -- I do not fear the prosecutors."
Traficant interrupted his comments to greet a man passing by on the sidewalk, a typical occurrence for the congressman in downtown Cleveland.
"Howya doin, brother? Get on the jury! Sh--'s outta hand!"
In court Friday, Craig S. Morford, lead prosecutor, asked Marcone if Traficant ever discussed his tactic of attacking the government -- going on the offense.
Marcone said the congressman did, mentioning affidavits he wanted to be made public that alleged corruption in the Youngstown FBI. The chief of staff, prompted by a transcript of his grand jury testimony, then recalled the congressman's "offense" strategy comment.
The two argued: Marcone said he began looking for another job when he and Traficant had a "heated argument" after the congressman appeared on national TV in August 2000 and made accusations.
Traficant did an interview on the Fox News Channel's "Hannity & amp; Colmes" in August 2000 and accused then-Attorney General Janet Reno of treason, saying he had affidavits. He said she had mob connections and had sex with a lesbian call girl and, because of her "blackmailability," refused to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Chinagate in the Clinton-Gore administration.
"You have a wife and family. I don't know what's going to happen; look for another job," Marcone said in court, quoting Traficant's pre-indictment concerns. The 10-count indictment, handed up in May 2001, includes charges of racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.
Link to businessmen: Morford is using Marcone's testimony to link Traficant to businessmen, most of whom have pleaded guilty to bribing the congressman.
Marcone outlined the efforts he and staffers took to aid the constituents. He testified that he was unaware that the following businessmen had either given Traficant cash or done work at the congressman's horse farm in Greenford in return for favors:
UJ.J. Cafaro of Liberty admits bribing Traficant with cash and boat repairs in return for the congressman promoting USAerospace Group, a now-defunct Manassas, Va., company that had developed landing lights for airplanes and water craft. Marcone said Traficant never told him -- until much later -- that money to buy the congressman's houseboat, $26,000, really came from Cafaro, not Albert Lange, a USAG official.
U Anthony Bucci, a contractor who had been disqualified from getting state and county paving projects and sought Traficant's help with the Ohio Department of Transportation. "Absolutely not," Marcone said when asked by Morford if he knew Bucci was doing work at the farm while Traficant was muscling ODOT officials.
U Bernard J. Bucheit of Bucheit International, who, thanks to Traficant's efforts, received an undisclosed settlement from a Saudi Arabian prince for an $11 million shopping mall built in the Gaza Strip. Bucheit is under indictment, accused of doing contracting work in the early 1990s worth more than $30,000 at Traficant's horse farm and not requiring payment.
UA. David Sugar has pleaded guilty to perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Sugar provided false testimony when questioned at the grand jury about whether his company, Honey Creek Contracting in Petersburg, billed and received payment from Traficant for work done at the horse farm. Sugar also directed his secretary to create fake invoices and mailing dates and give those records to an FBI agent in response to a grand jury subpoena.
"I asked everyone of my staff to do work for everybody," Traficant said after court Friday. "When I put on my defense you'll have a better understanding."
Motion filed: Lawyers for Traficant's co-defendant, Richard E. Detore, a Virginia engineer, filed a motion Friday to dismiss his indictment. He claims information he provided the government is being used against him.
Detore, a former USAG official, was added to Traficant's indictment last October, charged with bribery conspiracy. Detore's trial is in July.
Marcone said Friday that Traficant and Detore had formed a genuine friendship and had great affection for each other. Marcone said they often dined at the Greek Taverna, a Washington restaurant mentioned in the indictment with a list of dinners paid for by USAG.
Traficant's questions: Traficant had questioned his former chief of staff for about 25 minutes when court ended Friday.
The questions, for the most part, didn't delve deeply into the charges.
Traficant recited a list of his accomplishments -- aggressive, active congressman who took on the IRS, introduced and passed more bills than any other representative -- and got Marcone to say, "That's a fair statement."
The cross-examination will conclude Monday.