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What’s next for Traficant?

Published: Mon, August 31, 2009 @ 12:10 a.m.

By David Skolnick

Feds will keep eye on former congressman for three years



YOUNGSTOWN — After ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. gets out of federal prison Wednesday, he won’t exactly be a free man.

As part of his sentence, Traficant will be on supervised release for three years.

Shortly after Wednesday, Traficant will meet with federal probation office officials in downtown Youngstown at the Thomas D. Lambros Building and United States Courthouse. Ironically, when he was a congressman, Traficant was instrumental in getting the federal building located in Youngstown.

Debra White of the federal probation office in Youngstown couldn’t be reached to comment on Traficant.

At that meeting with probation officials, the terms of Traficant’s reporting and supervision will be determined, said Richard J. Billak, chief executive officer of the Community Corrections Association.

CCA is a Youngstown-based company that operates a halfway house for inmates, including numerous federal prisoners.

During those three years of supervised release, Billak said:

- Federal probation officials will do periodic checks of Traficant’s residence in Poland for weapons.

- Traficant won’t be permitted to be around other convicted felons, which is standard operating procedure for any federal ex-con.

- If Traficant wants to travel outside Ohio, he would need approval from federal probation officials.

- If Traficant wants to live elsewhere he could put in a request to relocate, but it would have to be for a legitimate reason.

Because of Traficant’s age, 68, he won’t be required to find employment upon his release, Billak said.

Traficant was sentenced July 30, 2002, to eight years in prison on 10 felony counts including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. His sentence was reduced because of good behavior.

He will be released sometime Wednesday from the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., where he spent most of his prison term.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons doesn’t provide a release time for its inmates, said Felicia Ponce, an agency spokeswoman.

How Traficant will get home is unknown.

Inmates can arrange their own transportation or the bureau can pay for a bus ticket home, Ponce said.

Also, within 30 days of a prisoner’s release, they can have “release clothes” sent to them, she said. If that doesn’t happen, the bureau will provide appropriate clothes for a freed inmate, Ponce said.

The standard outfit inside prisons for federal inmates is a khaki-colored, button-down shirt, khaki pants and tennis shoes with laces, she said.

Once Traficant makes it home, he can register to vote anytime he wants, said Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for the Ohio secretary of state. Convicted felons aren’t restricted from registering to vote after they’re released from prison, he said.

If Traficant wants to vote in November, the registration deadline is Oct. 5.

The bigger question is: Can the former congressman and Mahoning County sheriff run for office and serve if he wins?

Traficant hasn’t given any indication he’s interested in running for elected office. But some of his supporters hope he does.

There is no constitutional prohibition preventing Traficant for running for elected office.

But there are issues, depending on the position, regarding his legal right to serve, according to legal opinions provided by the Ohio attorney general’s office.

If elected to a congressional seat, Traficant could serve.

A person who is on any type of supervised release, however, can’t run for any office in the state of Ohio, according to legal opinions by the attorney general’s office.

But once Traficant’s three years of supervised release is up, he’d need “a reversal or annulment of the conviction, or obtain a full pardon” to run for a nonfederal office, according to a 1998 attorney general’s opinion.

Each case is different, and a court would ultimately have the power to determine the eligibility.

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