TRAFICANT CASE U.S.: 'New' evidence is same old song
The former congressman is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
CLEVELAND -- James A. Traficant Jr.'s "new" evidence has been heard before -- most of it a year ago, the government says in rejecting the former congressman's request for a new trial and a new judge.
Take the "new" testimony of Traficant's indicted co-defendant, Richard E. Detore, a Virginia engineer. What Detore told a House ethics subcommittee July 16 about prosecutorial misconduct mirrored what he said last August during a phone conversation Traficant taped, had transcribed then filed in U.S. District Court, the government said.
Rejected the tape
U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells rejected the taped conversation then as "staged" and self-serving. It didn't persuade her that Detore or Traficant were victims of what they alleged -- prosecutorial misconduct.
Detore didn't want to testify at Traficant's racketeering trial when asked, and Traficant didn't push it. Instead, the ex-congressman tried to use the tape, which the judge rejected because Detore was available to testify.
The judge will sentence Traficant on Tuesday. Detore's trial starts Nov. 12.
In a 33-page response filed Friday in U.S. District Court, the government lays out its reasons why Traficant does not deserve a new trial or a new judge based on what he calls "new evidence."
Attached to the response are six exhibits, including two Vindicator stories.
Aside from Detore's testimony, Traficant, convicted of corruption crimes in April and expelled Wednesday from the U.S. House of Representatives, said the following should merit a new trial:
U The comments of Leo Glaser, juror No. 8, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer last weekend that he was convinced his guilty verdict was wrong, based on Detore's testimony before the ethics subcommittee.
Glaser told The Vindicator, then other new organizations, that he was misquoted. Glaser said his verdict stands based on the evidence at trial.
Detore provided some reasonable doubt, Glaser said. It could have been shaken, though, had Detore been cross-examined by Craig S. Morford, lead prosecutor at trial, the juror said.
The government attached The Vindicator story to its response in which Glaser said the Plain Dealer story was inaccurate and he would take his guilty verdict to the grave. Prosecutors said Glaser's remarks, and those of a Traficant juror who was excused and did not take part in deliberations, are immaterial and not considered evidence, new or otherwise.
U Judge Wells' husband is a partner in a law firm that once represented another of Traficant's co-defendants, J.J. Cafaro.
In its response Friday, the government attached a May 15, 2001, Vindicator story about Cafaro's guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. and emphasized this excerpt: "The government had wanted Cafaro's case transferred to Judge Lesley B. Wells, who will preside over Traficant's trial, but she had perceived a potential conflict. A motion filed by [Cafaro lawyer Geoffrey S.] Mearns stated that Judge Wells' husband is a partner at Squire Sanders & amp; Dempsey, which has performed legal work on behalf of USAG to obtain the laser-guidance patents that are at issue in the case."
The government said Judge Wells' husband never personally represented Cafaro, USAerospace Group of the Cafaro Co. Her husband is simply a partner in the law firm and the information has been public for more than a year, the government said.
U Affidavits filed Monday from Rick Berger, a part-timer with the 17th District Congressional staff, and Sandra J. Ferrante, Traficant's close friend and former horse trainer. The affidavits claim to relate statements contractor A. David Sugar, another Traficant co-defendant, made about being pressured to lie for the government.
Traficant attempted unsuccessfully to use the same type of second-hand information at his trial through the testimony of a friend of Sugar's. Sugar, who testified for the prosecution, never said he was pressured -- on the contrary, he said the FBI agents were very nice.
Sugar submitted his own affidavit and the government filed it Friday.
In it, Sugar describes how he was approached by Traficant at a job site in Pennsylvania this past Monday. Traficant, Sugar said, wanted him to say he was threatened by the government to lie at trial about free work he did at the former congressman's horse farm in return for favors.
Sugar said in his affidavit that he refused and Traficant became angry. Sugar added that Berger could not possibly have overheard the conversation because he was too far away and there was traffic noise.
The Ferrante affidavit, Sugar said, also does not (as it purports) reflect a conversation he had last Saturday with a friend at a restaurant. Sugar denied saying to the friend that the FBI harassed him.
Sugar has been awaiting sentencing since October 2000 on convictions of perjury before a grand jury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. He lied to the grand jury about back-dating invoices to cover the farm work.
Sugar said he has stayed away from the ex-congressman "due to the fact that Mr. Traficant will take anything you say and manipulate it to say what he wants it to say."
The government wants Judge Wells to consider at sentencing that Traficant violated his bond conditions, which prohibit him from traveling outside northeastern Ohio, except for Washington, D.C. His trip to western Pennsylvania to find Sugar was not approved beforehand.
Prosecutors, in their filing Friday, reached back nearly 20 years to demonstrate how Traficant then accused the government of misdeeds and the judge of being unfair. He also got a witness to lie under oath at trial, the government said.
Traficant, then Mahoning County sheriff, beat those charges, but he lost an off-shoot tax case when the judge concluded he failed to declare as income $163,000 he took from mobsters for his 1980 sheriff campaign.