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Government seeks anonymity for jury



Published: Thu, January 3, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Federal prosecutors have proposed a list of questions to ask potential jurors.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- The government wants to keep secret the identity of jurors selected to hear evidence against U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.

In a four-page motion filed in U.S. District Court, federal prosecutors said an anonymous jury is necessary because of extensive pretrial publicity and an allegation that the 17th District congressman tampered with a grand jury witness.

Much of the pretrial publicity has been generated by Traficant himself on talk radio, the government said. Since his May 4 indictment, the congressman has twice been host of Dan Ryan's WKBN 570-AM radio program.

"Continued heavy media coverage during the trial is a certainty," the government said. "Furthermore, this case involves allegations of dangerous and unscrupulous conduct."

The federal prosecutors -- Craig S. Morford, Bernard A. Smith and Matthew B. Kall -- don't want jurors' names, addresses and places of employment to be made public. They reason that divulging the information could make jurors susceptible to intimidation by the defendants' friends or enemies or harassment by the public.

Trial date: Traficant and his co-defendant, Richard E. Detore, a Virginia engineer, are set for trial Feb. 4. Detore, who was added to the case in late October, has asked for a separate trial.

Traficant, acting as his own lawyer, faces 10 counts that include racketeering, bribery and tax evasion. Detore faces a charge of conspiracy to violate the federal bribery law.

The government's motion for U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells includes a four-page order that another federal judge issued in 1999 that granted the prosecution's desire for an anonymous jury. At that time, Judge Kathleen M. O'Malley kept secret the identity of jurors in the trial of three Mahoning Valley organized crime figures.

Juror questionnaire: Traficant's prosecutors, meanwhile, also filed 19 pages of questions they propose be used for a questionnaire that potential jurors will be given. The defense also can suggest questions. The final decision is Judge Wells'.

The government's questions include:

UHave you ever lived in Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana county?

UHave you ever voted in any election involving either Mahoning County or the 17th U.S. Congressional District in Ohio in which Congressman Traficant was a candidate?

UHave you seen anything on TV, heard anything on the radio or read anything in any printed publication about this case?

UWhat do you know or what have you seen or heard about this case?

UDo you have a positive or negative opinion about Traficant?

UHave you heard or seen Traficant discuss anything, but not limited to this case, Randy Weaver/Ruby Ridge; Waco; the Oklahoma City bombing; John Demjanjuk or Janet Reno?

UAre you currently having any dispute with the United States government, including any department or agency?

UHave you or a close friend or family member ever had a dispute with the FBI or IRS?

UWhich newspapers, magazines do you read?

UWhat radio programs do you listen to?

UHow actively are you interested in and do you follow politics?

UDo you or any of your relatives belong to a labor union?

UThis case should be very interesting and may be somewhat longer than the average federal trial. Counsel have estimated six to eight weeks. Would the length cause you a hardship?

meade@vindy.com




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