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Traficant needs to be put out of misery



Published: Sun, July 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)




With citizen James A. Traficant Jr.'s second date with destiny just 48 hours away -- the first took place Wed nesday night when he was booted out of the U.S. House of Rep resentatives -- here are the top 10 reasons this felon should be sent directly to prison Tuesday, the day of his sentencing:

No. 10 -- He needs a change of diet. Traficant's recent public pronouncements about his bowel movements and his gastric emissions make it clear that all those meals at Taverna, a restaurant in Washington, D.C., paid for by USAerospace, a Cafaro Co. enterprise, have played havoc with his intestinal tract. Bread and water are just what the doctor would order.

No. 9 -- Being booked into a federal pen would reveal the answer to a question reporters around the region are asking: "Is it real or is it enhanced?" The query relates to the former 17th District congressman's hair -- and whether the clump that sits atop his head is just a bad 'do or a bad hairpiece. Traficant has only himself to blame for the media's preoccupation with such banalities. Wednesday night, during the House of Representatives' consideration of the resolution to expel him, he drew attention to his pate when he quipped that he styles his hair with a weed-whacker.

No. 8 -- The Mahoning Valley desperately needs a break from his incessant whining about how the big bad government has been out to get him for almost 20 years, and how key prosecution witnesses in the criminal trial earlier this year were all crooked but were treated with kid gloves after they agreed to testify that they were part of his criminal enterprise. But Traficant's conviction in April on 10 criminal charges, including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion, made it clear that the jury did not buy his litany of persecution: "they sank my boat;" "they knocked down my barn;" "they shot my groundhogs."

No. 7 -- He needs to start earning his keep. For more than a year, this Democrat from Poland who was in his ninth term in Congress, spent most of his time preparing for his criminal trial -- all the while receiving his congressional pay of almost $150,000 a year and the other benefits that members of the exclusive political club called Congress receive. His appearance last week on the floor of the House marked the first time since his conviction that he had been to the Capitol.

Now, however, Traficant is off the government payroll -- but don't cry for him, dear gullible voter. Even though he is a felon, has been kicked out of the House after being charged with nine violations of the rules of official conduct, and will be a guest of the federal corrections system, this political pariah will still receive a government pension of nearly $40,000 a year. He is living proof that crime does pay.

No. 6 -- He has all but publicly challenged Judge Lesley Brooks Wells of the U.S. District Court in Cleveland to throw the book at him. By accusing Wells of judicial misconduct, the disgraced politician has said, in effect, "Take your best shot." She should -- by remanding him to the custody of the U.S. marshals as soon as she pronounces sentence Tuesday.

No. 5 -- The fashion world is abuzz about this self-proclaimed trendsetter -- polyester bell-bottom pants, ill-fitting denim jackets and narrow ties -- who is about to model orange penitentiary garb.

No. 4 -- The prison population can't wait to have the former top cop of Mahoning County who likened himself to the "Walking Tall" movie character, Sheriff Buford Pusser, in its midst.

No. 3 -- His continued freedom lends credibility to his independent candidacy in the November general election for the congressional seat in the new 17th District. Being out of sight -- behind bars -- may well put him out of the minds of the ridiculously large number of Mahoning Valley residents who continue to support him.

No. 2 -- Traficant is a two-bit criminal who used his public position for personal gain.

And the No. 1 reason this blot on the Mahoning Valley's reputation should be sent to prison immediately: Gary Condit.

Condit, a Democratic congressman from California who was cast as a possible suspect in the murder case of a former government intern, Chandra Levy, was the lone vote in Traficant's favor. He admitted having a close relationship with Levy -- and the voters of his district rejected his bid for another term. Condit will be leaving office at the end of this year. His support of Traficant was instructive. Yes, politicians should be judged by the company they keep.




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