Bucheit scheduled to leave prison today
The retired contractor will serve the remainder of his sentence in a halfway facility.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Retired contractor Bernard J. Bucheit, who gave a congressman a $30,000 "tip," was to leave federal prison today.
Until June 22, Bucheit's new home will be Community Corrections Association, a halfway facility on Market Street. That day, the 73-year-old retired contractor's prison commitment ends.
Richard J. Billak, CCA chief executive officer, said Bucheit would likely arrive around noon today and be housed with at least one roommate. Billak said Bucheit must find work within two weeks or return to prison.
Because Bucheit is already retired, he will be permitted to do volunteer work. The volunteer work can be with a church, food bank or something along those lines, Billak said.
Bucheit, who retired to Florida from Boardman, has been at the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton since Sept. 26, 2003.
In April 2003, a jury found Bucheit guilty of conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute, giving an unlawful gratuity to a public official (then-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.), and perjury before a federal grand jury. U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells sentenced Bucheit to 24 months in prison and fined him $5,000.
Bucheit earned good time in prison, which knocked off about six months from his total sentence.
Traficant, convicted of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion, has been incarcerated since July 30, 2002. In early December 2004, he was moved from a prison in New York to the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., for an undisclosed physical or mental health problem.
Traficant accepted roughly $30,000 worth of remodeling work done at his Greenford horse farm in the early 1990s from Bucheit, who collected political favors instead of cash for the work done.
Statue of limitations
Near the end of Bucheit's trial, his Cleveland lawyer, Roger M. Synenberg, asked the judge to dismiss the conspiracy charge, arguing that it was beyond the statute of limitations. He said the government wrongly linked Traficant's unpaid bill for 1993 farm work to official acts Traficant took in 1997 and thereafter to resolve a dispute Bucheit's construction company had in the Gaza Strip.
Synenberg argued that the alleged conspiracy ended in 1994, making it beyond the five-year statute of limitations. Bucheit was indicted in January 2002. Three judges at U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati heard oral arguments in Bucheit's case. A decision is pending.
Bucheit's Akron lawyer, Christopher C. Eskew, argued that the case was barred by the five-year statute of limitations and there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict.
The government, represented by Matthew B. Kall, an assistant U.S. attorney, argued to the appellate judges that Bucheit's challenge to the statute of limitations should have been raised before trial. Also, there was sufficient evidence to prove perjury and to prove overt acts and receipt of value by a public official within the five years, he said.
In the past, meanwhile, federal inmates such as Bucheit were released four to six months before their prison term ended to finish their time at a halfway facility.
Last December, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft tightened releases for white-collar criminals. The change is being challenged in courts.
In Bucheit's situation, he would have transferred to CCA in January, Billak has said. The release mechanism was changed to reflect 10 percent of the sentence, 24 months in Bucheit's case.