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Traficant loses prison release bid



Published: Sat, September 21, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The ex-congressman wanted to be free to campaign.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Ex-congressman James A. Traficant Jr. has lost three crucial votes: Three appellate judges have denied his release from prison pending appeal.

The order, issued Friday by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, represents a decision by Judges Martha C. Daughtrey, Ronald L. Gilman and John R. Gibson.

"He has failed to show, by clear and convincing evidence, that he is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of another person or the community and that his appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact," the order states.

In a 29-page motion filed with the appellate court, Columbus lawyer Percy Squire had argued that Traficant is not a flight risk and poses no danger to the community. Squire said the issues that Traficant has raised -- flawed jury selection and double jeopardy -- are likely to lead to a new trial "or his discharge without further punishment."

Traficant objected to not having jurors from Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties at trial, which ended April 11 with his conviction on all 10 counts, including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion.

He also believes that his expulsion from the U.S. House of Representatives on July 24 was punishment enough and that his prison sentence represents double jeopardy.

The government had objected to Traficant's release pending appeal.

Trial judge's conclusion

In remanding Traficant to custody on July 30, U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells concluded Traficant had violated the conditions of his bond and does represent a flight risk. The 61-year-old Poland man is serving his eight-year sentence at a federal prison in White Deer, Pa.

Judge Wells, in her decision, gave examples of threats Traficant made about what he would do to FBI agents and how he refused to allow a home inspection by court officials or provide the whereabouts of his firearms.

Traficant, as a congressional candidate in the Nov. 5 general election, needed to remain in the area to seek election, Squire said in his motion. It is highly unlikely, Squire said, that a well-known figure seeking election in the 17th District would attempt to flee.

Traficant is running as an independent for his old seat in the reconfigured 17th District. He had wanted to be released from prison to assist in his appeal and to campaign against two challengers.

Squire to bow out

Squire told The Vindicator in August that, once the appellate court decided if Traficant should be released from prison pending appeal, he would be off the case.

Squire has said his representation of the ex-congressman is limited to two narrow constitutional issues -- jury selection and double jeopardy.

Squire said he is not particularly accustomed to handling criminal appeals, so after resolution of the request for bail, he will likely not be involved in the case.

"It is not my plan to be part of the 'team,' so to speak," Squire said last month. "We filed a post-trial motion on certain limited grounds, and the motion for release on bail was also based on just two grounds. The appeal would probably cover a much wider range of issues, and I don't think I'd be the best person to necessarily present all those to the court."

Youngstown attorney Mark S. Colucci announced in July that he would serve as lead counsel for Traficant's appeal. As of Friday, he had not filed a notice of his intention with the appellate court.

meade@vindy.com




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