TRAFICANT CASE Prosecutors oppose evidence ruling
The congressman's correspondence includes a letter to the Saudi Embassy.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- Six documents that reflect "promises or threats" U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. made about proposed legislation should not be withheld as evidence, the government says.
In a brief filed late Monday in U.S. District Court, prosecutors object to a magistrate judge's conclusion that the six documents are protected by the speech or debate clause in the Constitution. The magistrate has recommended that the documents not be used as evidence at Traficant's racketeering trial next month.
The speech or debate clause gives Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, immunity from legal reprisal for comments he makes on the House floor, documents he puts into the Congressional Record and consultations he has with staff about proposed legislation language.
Traficant, 60, faces 10 counts, including racketeering, bribery, obstructing justice and filing false tax returns. Despite lacking a law degree, he has opted to represent himself.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells will consider the magistrate's recommendation and the government's objection, then make a decision.
Communications: Five of the six documents represent communications in 1998 between Paul P. Marcone, Traficant's chief of staff at the time, and Richard E. Detore, then an official at USAerospace Group in Virginia.
The government contends that the communications don't prove that the proposed language was inserted into legislation, but only a promise that it would be inserted in the future.
The government said Detore and his boss at the time, J.J. Cafaro of Liberty, bribed Traficant and, in return, the congressman used his influence to promote USAG laser-guidance technology with federal agencies. Cafaro has admitted the bribe was nearly $40,000 -- including cash and the purchase of the congressman's houseboat.
Until last week, Detore had been Traficant's co-defendant but Judge Wells separated the cases and set Detore's trial for July. Cafaro is a government witness.
Letter: The sixth document prosecutors want to use at trial is a letter Traficant sent to the Saudi Embassy threatening the Saudi government with future hearings and legislation unless it did what he wanted. What the congressman wanted was a resolution to a dispute Bucheit International had with a Saudi Arabian prince over payment for a shopping mall in the Gaza Strip.
The government quoted a portion of the letter: Traficant "will offer an amendment to the legislation to restrict arms sales to Saudi Arabia unless progress is made or satisfactory settlements are reached on the Bucheit case and related cases."
Bernard J. Bucheit, who operated the Boardman construction company, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury. The 69-year-old contractor, now retired and living in Florida, is charged with bribery, giving an unlawful gratuity to a public official and perjury before a grand jury.
The government said he provided more than $30,000 worth of labor and materials at Traficant's horse farm in Greenford in the early 1990s and didn't require payment. 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.
At his final pretrial last Friday, Traficant made another request for evidence the government collected, even if prosecutors don't intend to use it at trial. In response, the government reiterated its position that it has turned over everything he has a right to see at this point.
Some of the evidence, such as cooperating witness statements, will not be turned over until just before the witnesses testify.