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Colucci leads ex-rep's team



Published: Wed, July 31, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The lawyer once suggested the former congressman is bipolar.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The attorney who offered tips to the government to win its case against James A. Traficant Jr. now represents the imprisoned ex-congressman.

Mark S. Colucci has positioned himself as lead counsel for Traficant's appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Colucci joins two Columbus lawyers who are appealing the jury selection process used to seat a jury for Traficant's trial in Cleveland, which ended April 11 with a guilty verdict on 10 counts.

Colucci accompanied Traficant to his sentencing Tuesday in Cleveland, intending to participate as co-counsel with Cleveland defense attorney Richard E. Hackerd. Traficant, who served as his own lawyer at trial, began serving an eight-year sentence Tuesday afternoon.

Traficant first waived any conflict of interest for the sentencing hearing, based on Colucci's tips memo to the government, then changed his mind, saying he wanted to preserve his appellate rights.

Colucci did not participate in the sentencing and said afterward that he would represent Traficant in his appeal.

Hackerd, meanwhile, represented Traficant for only 90 minutes of the three-hour sentencing. Traficant fired the lawyer and took over.

Memo to prosecutor

Craig S. Morford, assistant U.S. attorney, said in a court filing that Colucci's two-page memo of strategy tips, dated and faxed Dec. 6, 2000, was never solicited by the government. Prosecutors did not respond to or follow any of Colucci's advice, Morford said.

The tips were sent the same day U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent rejected an affidavit Colucci filed in federal court listing alleged charges of misconduct against Morford.

Colucci had spoken to and tried to represent Clarence T. Broad, Traficant's farmhand, who pleaded guilty to tampering with a grand jury witness by hatching a plan to have her killed.

Judge Nugent said the affidavit was "patently frivolous on its face." The judge reminded Colucci that the court had the authority to impose sanctions for frivolous filings and would not hesitate to do so. The judge said he would not tolerate Colucci's blatant attempt to use the judicial system to accomplish his personal agenda.

Morford's filing reveals that Colucci said he misunderstood why he had been called to the grand jury investigating Traficant in 2000, then apologized to the federal prosecutor.

Colucci also said he promised to "make things right" regarding his public accusations of improper conduct but to date has not done so, the federal prosecutor said Tuesday in court papers.

Strategy tips

Colucci's memo is headed with "Some tips from a semi-old trial lawyer" and reference to JT.

The Dec. 6, 2000, tips were:

U You will win or lose this case in jury selection.

U A blue color [collar] jury will be messmerized [mesmerized] by him; no matter what kind of case or evidence you have.

U Your jury needs to have woman [women] from the greater metro/suburban area.

U If you make it too complicated to understand, he will win. He will paint the big picture and not respond to nuances of the indictment.

U He is laying the groundwork now in Congress, as you can see from his actions this a.m. Its [It's] designed to reach potential jurors.

U Don't count on him taking the stand -- that's the beauty of representing yourself.

U He is not stupid -- he holds two masters degrees and virtually a photographic memory.

U If Busch [Bush] wins, he is in the catbird seat. He will switch parties and control a powerful committee due to his seniority and loyalty to Busch [Bush]. He was on MSNBC supporting Busch [Bush] two days ago.

U He holds one of the few swing votes on who the next speaker of the House will be -- again, in the catbird's seat.

U There will be a new attorney general if Busch [Bush] gets in -- it's no secret that Clinton ordered Reno to target him over political disobedience to Clinton's agenda, not to mention the shouting and shoving match he had in the presidential limo when he was in Youngstown in 1996 (Clinton) for re-election.

U He will use these broad themes in his defense.

U He probably is also getting advice from Washington lawyer -- don't know name.

U He will put the U.S. Dept. of Justice on trial and his "oversight legislation" will pas [pass] due to his modest budget and a new Republican president who owes him.

"These are just general observations from the newspapers and my reading of the 'tea leaves.' He has never and would never discuss anything with me," Colucci wrote. "Your profile on him should also check into his mental status -- I believe he is bipolar. He stays up days at a time and then sleeps in his office for a few days."

The memo is signed M. The postscript says: "When you get time, call me about one other thing and two 'unbelievable cases' you should look into -- I wouldn't believe it had I not confirmed the facts."

Colucci said in court Tuesday that he provided the government with the memo but, after looking into the case, he became convinced of Traficant's innocence. "I couldn't sit idly by," Colucci told U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells.

meade@vindy.com




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