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Motion cites prison limits



Published: Wed, September 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The court has granted more time for an appeal to be filed.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s attempts to appeal a racketeering conviction are hampered by his prison kitchen duty, limited access to the law library, a broken copy machine and fog.

Fog?

"This institution shuts down whenever there is fog," Traficant said in a motion filed with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that requested extra time to file an appellate brief. "The worst months of the year are September and October."

He gave a fog example: "An hour and a half was lost this morning in attempting to type this motion and if the information I have received is correct, fog occur[s] 3 to 4 mornings a week for the next 6 weeks."

Traficant is serving eight years at the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood in White Deer, Pa. Allenwood's massive complex in central Pennsylvania is surrounded by a rural, mountainous area, punctuated with lush rolling hills.

For security reasons, when fog rolls into the valley, "the prison goes into high security, inmates cannot move around -- they're confined to their housing units," William Campbell, prison spokesman, said Tuesday.

Campbell said fog descends frequently in September and October and lingers until the sun burns it off.

Traficant said he has been "adjusting to a change in circumstances," which includes working eight hours a day. Campbell said Traficant is assigned to kitchen duty.

"Further, the inmate copier machine has been out of service for almost two weeks," Traficant, 61, of Poland wrote in his motion for more time.

Because of a storage restriction at Allenwood, Traficant said he doesn't have a complete copy of the court record of his case. The transcript of his 10-week corruption trial is more than 6,000 pages.

Needs new counsel

Traficant's motion states that he wouldn't be able to file the appellate brief by the Oct. 7 deadline. He said he's experienced adverse and unexpected developments with his Columbus attorney, Percy Squire.

Traficant said Squire is not willing to proceed with the appeal, and it will take time to find someone else.

Squire, too, submitted a motion asking for a 90-day extension, explaining that he is not competent to represent Traficant on all aspects of the appeal. Squire said a lawyer with greater criminal appeals experience should be involved.

On Tuesday afternoon, the appellate court granted Squire's request and extended the Oct. 7 deadline to Jan. 10, 2003.

Nearly two months ago, at Traficant's sentencing in Cleveland, Youngstown attorney Mark S. Colucci announced that he would serve as lead counsel for the appeal. Since then he has not filed such notice with the appellate court.

Colucci sent an e-mail response to The Vindicator.

"Any conversations are privileged relative to any discussion involving representation so, I cannot comment -- as much as I would like to -- please understand. I can confirm I have not entered an appearance at this time. "

Squire, in a letter to the ex-congressman, said, "I believe you should endeavor to engage a lawyer on the level of an Alan Dershowitz." Squire, who narrowed his involvement in the appeal to questions of jury selection and double jeopardy, is willing to assist whomever Traficant hires.

Has talked with attorney

Squire's motion indicates that he has had discussions with Richard Kerger, a Toledo attorney, about working on Traficant's appeal.

In his motion, Traficant said he has taken Squire's suggestion and is sending out letters to find appellate counsel.

A copy of the letter Squire sent to Traficant, with an enclosure, was sent to Lori Pesci. Traficant, who was expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives on July 24, hired Pesci in April, and she continues to work part time on the congressional staff.

Pesci's involvement with Traficant's appeal is not clear. She was not available Tuesday to comment, according to the 17th District office in Canfield.

Traficant is running as an independent candidate in the Nov. 5 general election for the reconfigured 17th District. His request to be released from prison pending the outcome of his appeal was denied Friday.

His 10-count conviction includes racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

meade@vindy.com




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