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TRAFICANT CASE U.S. asks judge to ban some topics



Published: Tue, January 1, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman's time to file pretrial motions has passed.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. has several theories about why he faces racketeering charges -- none of which the government wants the jury to hear.

In motions filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors list the topics they assert are irrelevant and prejudicial, such as the 17th District congressman's claim that he is the victim of a vendetta, singled out for prosecution.

Traficant has long contended that successfully defending himself against federal bribery charges in 1983 sent the Justice Department on a mission to frame him. At the time, he was Mahoning County sheriff.

The congressman filed no pretrial motions by Wednesday's deadline. It was his last opportunity to assert a defense on claims of selective prosecution or prosecutorial misconduct and have them decided by U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells.

His trial on charges of racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion begins Feb. 4.

An example: Prosecutors, in their effort to keep his selective-prosecution claim from coming before the jury, give an example of what he intends to say by quoting from a motion he filed Jan. 3:

"He will not sit silently. He will condemn, criticize and denounce the selective enforcement before, during and even after the trial, if necessary," Traficant said of himself. "The government seeks to win at all costs [by knife fight or tooth and claw] and this well-funded witch hunt cannot be defended by silence. His freedom will not be subject to the caprice of the accusers."

Should Traficant, through opening statements or cross-examination, question the government's motive, "he will open the door to essentially every bad act of which the government had knowledge that factored into the government's decision to investigate and prosecute him," prosecutors said.

Topics cited: In their motions, the government asks that Judge Wells issue an order prohibiting Traficant from mentioning to the jury:

UPenalties he faces if convicted. Punishment is the court's job, not the jury's, the government said.

UThe effect a conviction would have on members of his family, which, the government said, amounts to nothing more than an appeal for sympathy.

UThe effect the prosecution or trial may have had on his health.

UThe cost of the investigation or prosecution. The government said that if it comes up, it will seek to rebut the evidence by showing the effect Traficant's tactics and misconduct had on the costs.

UThe success of federal prosecutors, whom Traficant has referred to as "undefeated" in an attempt, the government said, to portray himself as an underdog.

UDuring trial, requests to witnesses or federal prosecutors for evidence, which may create the false impression that information was suppressed as a means of seeking an unfair advantage.

UHis noncorrupt conduct. The congressman may try to parade witnesses to testify that he performed officials acts for businessmen without seeking anything of value and parade employees from whom he did not seek salary kickbacks, prosecutors said.

UOfficial acts that he would have performed even if he had not been promised things of value from businessmen.

UThat he did not actually perform official acts to benefit businessmen such as J.J. Cafaro, Anthony and Robert Bucci and A. David Sugar. (Cafaro and Sugar have pleaded guilty to their part in the Traficant case).

UEvidence of supposed wrongdoing by Craig S. Morford, the lead prosecutor, and accusations against current and former FBI agents. The congressman has passed the point to make a showing of prosecutorial misconduct and the allegations against the agents are irrelevant, prosecutors said.

meade@vindy.com




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