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CLEVELAND Traficant deserves light sentence, his attorney says



Published: Mon, July 15, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman's lawyer wants to submit testimony and affidavits.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

CLEVELAND -- After all the good he's done, U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. should receive less time in prison than called for and remain free pending appeal, his lawyer says.

In motions filed in U.S. District Court, Cleveland attorney Richard E. Hackerd requests the opportunity to submit testimony and affidavits at the July 30 sentencing to support his position.

In April, a jury found Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, guilty of 10 counts, including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

The government has asked that U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells depart upward from the sentencing guidelines and sentence the congressman in the 70- to 87-month range -- and higher than 87 months if possible.

The government also wants Judge Wells to impose a hefty fine. The 61-year-old congressman already owes a $96,000 forfeiture.

Hackerd has asked Judge Wells to consider sentencing below the 37- to 46-month guideline range based on Traficant's extensive record of public service.

Traficant is completing his ninth term in the House. Before that, he served four years as Mahoning County sheriff.

Incarceration will 'devastate'

Hackerd said if Traficant were incarcerated pending appeal, a substantial amount of time would be served before the appeal is heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.

"Any period of incarceration will mean loss of employment and potentially his home and other property," Hackerd said in his motions.

"Incarceration will devastate his chances in the upcoming election, end his political career and deny the residents of the Mahoning Valley a fair opportunity to choose their representative of choice.

"The stakes are high should the court be reversed on appeal and there is simply no way to undo the damage which might be done if Mr. Traficant is incarcerated pending his appeal."

Traficant will run as an independent in the November general election.

Hackerd said the judge should consider Traficant's "lifelong dedication and exceptional public service" when determining the sentence.

Government's stance

The government has said just the opposite. The congressman showed no respect for the position to which he had been elected and conducted the affairs of his office through a pattern of bribery, gratuities, fraud, extortion and obstruction. He disgraced the office, prosecutors said.

"There is a small percentage of cases that warrant the highest sentence available," prosecutors said. "This is one such case."

meade@vindy.com




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