YOUNGSTOWN Contractor, lawyer OK exchange of real estate for legal services
The retired contractor first had a court-appointed public defender.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Boardman lawyer has agreed to accept real estate in Florida as payment for representing a contractor accused of bribing imprisoned ex-congressman James A. Traficant Jr.
In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Bernard J. Bucheit, 69, of West Palm Beach, Fla., has requested until Sept. 27 to finalize the real-estate-for-legal-services transaction.
If the deal falls through, Bucheit said in the motion that he will submit financial documents to show that he qualifies for a court-appointed public defender.
As of Friday, U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells, who had given Bucheit until Sept. 13 to hire a lawyer or prove that he could not afford one, had not acted on the motion.
Bucheit said that, "while some details remain to be ironed out," Boardman attorney J. Gerald Ingram has agreed to take the case in return for the mortgage deed on real estate in Florida. The type of real estate and its value was not disclosed in the motion.
Ingram declined Friday to describe the property or its value.
Attached to Bucheit's motion is an affidavit from Ingram, in which the lawyer says he and Bucheit have discussed the pending criminal case several times in the past month or so.
Ingram has also spoken to Craig S. Morford, an assistant U.S. attorney, to discuss the motion that asks for the Sept. 27 deadline, and Morford had no objection, the affidavit states. Ingram said he also drafted the motion Bucheit filed.
Ingram said in his affidavit that he contacted an Ohio lawyer licensed in Florida to do a title search and prepare the necessary paperwork, his affidavit states.
Bucheit, who once owned Bucheit International in Boardman, has been charged with conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute, giving an unlawful gratuity to a public official and perjury before a federal grand jury.
The grand jury indicted Bucheit in January. He was provided with a public defender at arraignment, with the understanding that, once some of his property in Florida sold, he would hire his own lawyer.
Bucheit explained to Judge Wells at a hearing last month that the property hadn't yet sold. His trial is set for Dec. 2.
Bucheit is accused of doing roughly $30,000 worth of contracting work at Traficant's horse farm in Greenford in the early 1990s and not requiring payment.
Included was a deck replacement, electrical work, elaborate railings and lattice work, a gazebo, enclosure of an addition, siding, windows, drywall and finishing work.
In return, the government said, Traficant engaged in numerous official acts to help Bucheit obtain some or all of the $11.6 million owed his company by a Saudi Arabian prince for construction work in the Gaza Strip.
In April, a jury found Traficant guilty of 10 counts, including bribery, racketeering, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. He began serving an eight-year prison sentence in central Pennsylvania on July 30.
Traficant is running in the November general election as an independent candidate for the reconfigured 17th Congressional District.