The congressman wants a hearing and the opportunity to call witnesses.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. used a part-time staffer to eavesdrop on a conversation the congressman had with a government witness, then supplied a sworn affidavit that says the witness lied at the congressman's trial.
The affidavit, signed by Rick Berger, was attached to a motion Traficant filed late Monday in U.S. District Court that seeks another judge to rule on his motion for a new trial. The Poland Democrat will be sentenced next Tuesday on corruption and tax evasion charges.
Traficant said U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells should be disqualified because her husband is a partner in a Cleveland law firm that has represented a key government witness, J.J. Cafaro. Cafaro, who pleaded guilty last year to bribing the congressman, had his criminal case assigned to another judge because of the relationship.
Berger's affidavit states that he sat in his vehicle Monday morning in Mount Jackson, Pa., while Traficant and contractor A. David Sugar discussed Sugar's testimony for 29 minutes. Sugar said that he didn't tell the truth when he testified and that he was pressured by the government to lie, the affidavit states.
Sentencing is pending
Sugar testified at trial that he did work at the congressman's horse farm in Greenford in return for favors and back-dated invoices to cover the free work. Sugar, whose sentencing has been pending for two years, told Traficant the government is holding the sentencing over his head "like a hammer" until it gets rid of the congressman, the affidavit states.
The affidavit quotes Sugar as saying that he would love to help Traficant but is afraid of the consequences.
"Congress can't help me," Berger wrote, quoting Sugar. "These guys in Cleveland are too powerful and will destroy me and my family."
Berger described himself as a part-time staffer specifically asked to tag along with Traficant while they looked for Sugar, then witness any conversation that took place.
Traficant submitted another affidavit that Sandra J. Ferrante, his former horse trainer, signed that recounts a conversation she had last Saturday with a man who had lunch with Sugar. The affidavit quotes Sugar as saying he had been harassed by the FBI and the lead prosecutor.
Traficant asks for a hearing on his motion and wants Judge Wells to call her husband as a witness, as well as other law partners and Cafaro.
The congressman also considers as new evidence what his co-defendant, Richard Detore, who declined to testify at trial, told a U.S. House ethics subcommittee about being pressured by the government to lie to "get Traficant."
The congressman said the recently disclosed statements of a juror who said Detore's statements provided reasonable doubt should also be considered in his effort for a new trial.