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TRAFICANT CASE Hearing on expulsion is scheduled for Wednesday



Published: Mon, July 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s colleagues in the House of Representatives will consider his expulsion from the body Wednesday morning.

Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman, said his office received a House schedule that lists the expulsion hearing beginning Wednesday. Straub said he expects the hearing to be held in the morning, among the first items taken up that day. The House's Wednesday session begins at 10 a.m. A definitive time for the Traficant decision will probably not be made until late Tuesday, Straub said.

"The talk is the votes are there to expel," Straub said. "That wouldn't be a surprise to the congressman."

There is one hour of debate on the expulsion vote, with each side getting 30 minutes.

U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, the Colorado Springs Republican who is chairman of the House ethics committee, will go first. Hefley, whose committee voted last week to recommend Traficant's expulsion, could yield any portion of his 30 minutes to fellow members who want to speak in favor of Traficant's removal.

Then Traficant, a Poland Democrat, will get his time. Like Hefley, Traficant could yield any portion of his time to fellow members. But Straub said Traficant is expected to take the entire 30 minutes.

Traficant, who wants eight hours to give his case to the House, is not pleased that he is receiving only 30 minutes. For Traficant to receive more than 30 minutes would require unanimous consent from the full House.

"At that point, they're saying the decision is basically made; a half-hour is a mere formality," Straub said about the 30 minutes that Traficant will receive.

Hopes to have vote tabled

Traficant is hoping the House will table the vote so investigations could be conducted into allegations the congressman -- and Richard E. Detore, his co-defendant -- made at last week's House ethics hearing about prosecutorial and judicial misconduct related to his federal corruption trial, Straub said. Traficant was convicted April 11 on 10 felony counts including bribery and racketeering, and is to be sentenced July 30.

But it appears getting the House to postpone its vote on the expulsion is a long shot.

After the hour of debate, the House is expected to vote. The proceeding will be broadcast live on C-SPAN. The voting could take only a few minutes.

Donna Pignatelli, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Lorain Democrat, said it was announced at a Friday meeting of Democratic members of Congress' chiefs of staff by House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt's office that the Traficant vote would be Wednesday morning.

Chad Tanner, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, said Gephardt's office informed Strickland's office that the hearing would be Wednesday morning because House leadership wants to give members enough time to digest the transcripts of the ethics committee's hearing on Traficant.

Strickland, who through state redistricting is running for a seat that includes portions of Traficant's current district, plans to vote to expel Traficant, Tanner said.

But Strickland, who sat through much of Detore's testimony during the ethics hearing, said he was concerned by the testimony and believes other House committees should consider investigating Detore's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct by assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Morford, the lead prosecutor for the Traficant case. Morford has denied he did anything improper with Detore and the Traficant case.

The House ethics committee voted Thursday to recommend the full House expel Traficant for violating the body's code of conduct.




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