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Traficant says he could handle legislative duties from prison



Published: Tue, July 30, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



He said he may even be nominated to run for president.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. said he can campaign and conduct congressional business effectively from prison.

"If I'm elected, I'd have the same staff -- the best constituent service we've ever had," he said. "I think I could do a better job than 75 percent of the three-piece-suit people in Washington from behind bars," he added.

Traficant made his remarks Monday night during a live, half-hour interview with news anchor Bob Black of WFMJ-TV.

Traficant said he is permitted to run for federal office from prison and that arrangements may be made to place him in a prison near Washington and transfer him as needed to vote on the House floor.

America First Party

Monday he recorded a 30-minute keynote address for the August convention of the America First Party -- a spin-off of The Reform Party. He also told Black that the party is considering nominating him for president.

Traficant told the news anchor he was using the interview to campaign for votes. "I'm trying to use you just like you've used me for years," the former congressman said.

Traficant also appeared live Monday evening on Fox News' Hannity and Colmes program on which he repeated many of the statements he made in the WFMJ interview. He called upon Congress to demand an investigation of charges of prosecutorial misconduct in his case.

On sentencing

In the WFMJ interview, Traficant said he wouldn't ask for leniency or present any witnesses when U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells sentences him today for his racketeering conviction.

He said he also expects to be incarcerated immediately after sentencing "to shut me up," and he'd likely spend seven to 12 years in federal prison.

One of the motions he said he would file today would be for Judge Wells to remove herself from his case because of conflict of interest -- a motion she already has denied. He said Judge Wells' husband's law fim has done business with the Cafaro family. J.J. Cafaro was a witness against Traficant.

"I have been railroaded without a bit of physical evidence," Traficant said. "Had she allowed my witnesses, had she allowed my evidence, I'd prevail," he added. Traficant said he's investigating the possibility that one juror concluded he was guilty before any evidence was presented.

"The government feels that they want to put me away for enough time that they will have destroyed the legend of Jim Traficant," he said.

Vote wasn't a surprise

The House's 420-1 vote to expel him last week did not surprise him, he said, because the only items before Congress were the trial transcript and the testimony of Richard Detore, a defendant in a related case.

Traficant said he is in good health, but he declined to discuss the impact of his troubles on his family. "Leave my family out of it," he barked at Black.

Traficant said he thinks the government will file a motion forcing him to forfeit the proceeds from any book he may write about his experiences.

He said he has an agent, but no book contract has been signed yet.

milliken@vindy.com




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