The congressman begged a local contractor to say that the government pressured him to tell untruths, the contractor's lawyer says.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. "ambushed" contractor A. David Sugar Sr. at a job site then filed an affidavit that falsely quotes Sugar saying he lied for the government, his lawyer says.
The affidavit was authored by Rick Berger, who describes himself as a part-time congressional staffer specifically asked to tag along with Traficant while they looked for Sugar then witness any conversation that took place.
Berger joined Traficant's staff in April and is paid $16,000 annually.
The affidavit, filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, quotes Sugar as saying he would love to help Traficant but is afraid of the consequences. The 61-year-old Poland Democrat faces expulsion from the U.S. House and will be sentenced Tuesday in federal court for racketeering, bribery and tax evasion.
The affidavit is another effort by Traficant in his quest for a new trial. He contends that key witnesses lied to protect themselves from a prosecution team bent on destroying him. "Congress can't help me," Berger wrote, quoting Sugar. "These guys in Cleveland are too powerful and will destroy me and my family."
Berger lists 10 admissions he said Sugar made Monday morning in Mount Jackson, Pa.
Tracked down Sugar
Patrick A. D'Angelo, Sugar's Cleveland lawyer, said Tuesday that Traficant tracked Sugar down and ambushed him at a job site.
Among the 10 admissions attributed to Sugar are:
U If he didn't lie at trial he would go to jail and his wife and son would be criminally implicated.
U He would like to go public but is afraid of the IRS and the harm that could come to his family and business.
U He confided in friends Harry Manganaro and Joe Sabol about the lack of truth in his trial testimony.
"Mr. Sugar's account is completely at odds with what is set forth in this affidavit," D'Angelo told The Vindicator. "Traficant was basically begging [Sugar] to tell that the government pressured him into saying things that were not true, and Sugar responded consistent with what his testimony was in court."
Sugar testified that his company, Honey Creek Contracting, did work at the congressman's horse farm in Greenford in return for favors and back-dated invoices to cover the free work. Sugar has been awaiting sentencing since October 2000 on convictions of perjury before a grand jury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
D'Angelo said he received a call Tuesday from Sugar, who was upset and concerned about the affidavit now in the hands of U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells. Sugar will provide his own affidavit to the government to use in their response, the lawyer said.
"When pressed by Traficant, Sugar said what he said in court -- he did not confirm that the government made him lie or gave him a script or something like that," D'Angelo said. The congressman wanted to tape-record Sugar and have Sugar pretend that he didn't know he was being taped, D'Angelo said.
Traficant wanted Sugar to say all the right things on tape but Sugar wanted no part of it, D'Angelo said. "Traficant wanted to give these lay-up questions and then have Sugar hammer the government," the lawyer said.
D'Angelo said Sugar has followed his advice, which has been if you come into court and testify you have to tell the truth. Otherwise, the lawyer said, you're out of your mind and you're better off keeping your mouth shut and fighting the case if that's what you want to do.
"I'm convinced that Sugar is not crazy, and he certainly would not try to be playing games at this point," D'Angelo said. "He wouldn't have any kind of conversation where he says, 'Hey, listen, you know I really lied in court. I committed perjury in the trial, and the government made me to do it, and now I'm willing to come to Congress and say that to help you out, buddy.'"
Still faces sentencing
D'Angelo said his client is not a maniac or bent on self-destruction.
The latest effort by Traficant, D'Angelo said, is not appreciated by Sugar, who has to face Judge Wells at sentencing. Why would Sugar do something like this, knowing the judge could think he's playing games with the system, the lawyer asked.
D'Angelo said if Sugar is ambushed again by the congressman he will try to avoid the situation.
Sugar feels sorry for Traficant but also victimized, D'Angelo said.
Aside from Berger's affidavit, Traficant submitted one that Sandra J. Ferrante, his former horse trainer, signed that recounts a conversation she had last Saturday with Joe Sabol, who had lunch with Sugar. The affidavit quotes Sugar as saying that he had been harassed by the FBI and the lead prosecutor.