Traficant ex-staffer, contractor indicted
The congressman said he will object if jurors aren't drawn from his district.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- It came as no surprise to U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. that his indictment has spawned charges against a former staffer and a contractor who built shopping malls in the Middle East.
"This is a multidimensional case of tremendous significance -- since everyone has something to gain or something to lose who has been indicted," he said Friday on the steps of U.S. District Court. "The main target, we know, is me."
Traficant was in court Friday for a final pretrial. His racketeering trial begins Feb. 4 and he will represent himself.
The Poland Democrat just shrugged when asked to comment about the new charges. He said a lot of his friends will end up testifying against him.
"I do not hold it against them because their life will absolutely be ruined if they hadn't, so I really harbor no ill feelings," he said.
"I'm not going to make any more statements except to say this: I'm gonna fight these bastards [the government] like a junkyard dog."
Other indictments: About 90 minutes before the pretrial, a federal grand jury indicted Atty. Henry A. DiBlasio, a congressional staffer from January 1985 to December 1998, and Bernard J. Bucheit, who once operated Bucheit International in Boardman.
DiBlasio and Bucheit, both retired, can be found in the 17th District congressman's 41-page May 4 indictment, listed by title only.
Charges: DiBlasio had served as Traficant's administrative assistant and rented office space to him on Overhill Road in Boardman. Traficant's indictment states that DiBlasio kicked back a portion of his congressional salary each month and passed the practice on to his replacement, Boardman attorney R. Allen Sinclair. Sinclair is also referenced in the indictment by title only.
DiBlasio, 72, of Riviera Beach, Fla., has been charged with perjury before a federal grand jury. He falsely denied paying money to Traficant and discussing the payments with former staggers Sinclair and Jack Bobby, the government said.
If convicted, DiBlasio faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
Bucheit, 69, of West Palm Beach, Fla., has been charged with conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute, giving an unlawful gratuity to a public official and perjury before a federal grand jury.
If convicted, he faces up to 12 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.
Bucheit is accused of doing contracting work in the early 1990s worth more than $30,000 at Traficant's horse farm in Greenford and not requiring payment.
Included were a deck replacement, electrical work, elaborate railings and latticework, a gazebo, enclosure of an addition, siding, windows, drywall and finishing work.
In return, the government said, Traficant engaged in numerous official acts to help Bucheit obtain some or all of the $11.6 million owed his company by a Saudi Arabian prince for construction work in the Gaza Strip.
Among those Traficant contacted on Bucheit's behalf -- who could show up as witnesses -- were members of the Clinton administration such as Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
Other details: Traficant's indictment describes a greedy elected official who, instead of paying his bills, offered to use his position if those he owed money made his debts go away.
He also had staff members do manual labor on his houseboat in Washington, D.C., and at his farm in Greenford, the government said.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells, meanwhile, discussed the possibility of seating an anonymous jury, courtroom decorum, trial hours, exhibits, jury selection process, an "overflow" room for spectators and much more.
Decorum reminder: With a grin, the 60-year-old congressman, resplendent in beige bell bottoms, cowboy boots and a summer-weight beige jacket with elbow patches, assumed that the decorum lesson was meant for him. Not at all, Judge Wells said, it's something she explains before all trials.
Longtime Traficant observers said the "no cursing or profanity," "no interrupting," "no disrupting" and "no protesting the judge's rulings" will require a retooling of his behavior patterns.
He promised the judge that he would comply.
Traficant didn't object to not knowing jurors' identities but said he would object if some are not selected from his district, which includes Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. Jurors have not been selected from those counties in more than five years; they are drawn by courthouse location.
Traficant, referring to his part in clearing Clevelander John Demjanjuk, once accused of being a Nazi death camp guard, wants to make sure that he can delve into potential jurors' backgrounds.
The congressman said it's important, as a political figure, that he know their ethnic and religious backgrounds.