Rep. Traficant's co-defendant's trial has been reset to July.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. no longer has to share the spotlight shining on his racketeering trial with a co-defendant.
In an order filed late Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells granted a request by Richard E. Detore to be tried separately from the 60-year-old congressman. She reset Detore's trial on a single bribery conspiracy count to July 29.
Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, proceeds to trial Feb. 4 as planned.
The judge has been adamant about keeping Traficant's trial on track because at least two months have been set aside for it. Changing the date now would have caused an upheaval for trials that follow it.
A final pretrial was scheduled for this afternoon.
Among the issues Judge Wells must consider is a request by the government to keep jurors' names, addresses and places of employment secret.
In a motion filed Thursday, Traficant followed up on an oral request he'd made to stand trial after Detore, a 41-year-old engineer from Clifton, Va.
Federal prosecutors Craig S. Morford, Bernard A. Smith and Matthew B. Kall had wanted the Feb. 4 trial to go forward as planned with both defendants. They did not, however, oppose a short delay to allow Detore's recently hired Washington, D.C., lawyers time to prepare.
Though Traficant has faced 10 counts since last May, Detore wasn't added to the case until late October and didn't hire his lawyers until Dec. 18.
Judge Wells, in her order, agreed with Detore's lawyers that he should not have been joined with Traficant. She agreed that the spillover effect of evidence against Traficant would jeopardize Detore's right to a fair trial and that his lawyers need more time to prepare a defense.
Traficant motion: Traficant, who is not a lawyer, has opted to defend himself. In a reference to his 1983 federal bribery trial, the congressman said he has already experienced the "anxiety and inconvenience" of defending himself and believes his acquittal then spurred the government to single him out now. In 1983, he was Mahoning County sheriff.
For a second time, the government seeks to rob him of his liberties for decades, Traficant said in his motion for a separate trial.
As is his habit during public appearances or when filling in as host of a talk radio show, Traficant refers to himself in the third person in his motions:
"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."
Detrimental effects: The congressman reasoned that his criticism of the government would have interfered with Detore's ability to obtain a fair trial.
Traficant and Detore's lawyers both argued that the "spillover" of evidence would confuse jurors.
Since many of those who will testify against Detore live in Virginia or Washington, D.C., his lawyers suggested that his bribery charge should have been filed there, not Cleveland.
The congressman, taking offense at remarks about his "inappropriate behavior" made by Detore's lawyers, said such comments also warranted separate trials. Detore's lawyers have predicted that Traficant will turn the trial into a "highly publicized circus."
Traficant said if jurors in 1983 had found his behavior inappropriate, they would not have acquitted him. "What the jury found inappropriate was the government's indictment," he said.
Still seeks evidence: The ninth-term Democrat filed another motion Thursday for whatever evidence the government may have that shows him in a favorable light, and any requests it made for electronic surveillance of him.
He also wants specific details about the businessmen who pleaded guilty and have agreed to testify against him.
The congressman said he may argue to the jury that the businessmen cooperated only because they were intimidated and threatened by the government. At least two of the businessmen have admitted they bribed Traficant in return for congressional favors.
Detore, meanwhile, must be employed again because Judge Wells, in an order issued Thursday, modified conditions of his bond that had limited his travel. She granted his request to visit client sites throughout the East Coast. He can also visit his ailing mother in Delaware and his lawyers in Washington, D.C.
When arraigned in late November and asked about employment, Detore told a magistrate that he had been "dropped as a result of this action." He said he had been employed by Galaxy Scientific Corp. and was looking for consulting work.