Traficant to finish 8-year term in prison

By Patricia Meade

YOUNGSTOWN — James A. Traficant Jr. will not leave federal prison and report to Community Corrections Association, a halfway facility on Market Street, on March 9.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons earlier this month denied the imprisoned ex-congressman’s request for another facility, which left him with two options — come to CCA in March or stay in prison until September. The 67-year-old convicted felon’s eight-year federal prison sentence for racketeering and other crimes expires Sept. 2, and then he’ll serve three years’ supervised release.

Richard J. Billak, CCA chief executive officer, said Monday he received an e-mail from the Bureau of Prisons that cancels Traficant’s placement.

“All we know for certain is that he’s not coming here,” Billak said. He doesn’t think the bureau made arrangements for placement at another halfway facility after denying such a request.

The Bureau of Prisons typically sends inmates to a halfway facility up to six months before their scheduled prison release date to allow them to transition back into society and reconnect with family.

Billak said it’s probably easier for Traficant to stay in prison, considering the requirements at CCA, which include finding a full-time job and getting a urine test every day after work.

Traficant, of Poland, is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn. If he stays until the end of his term in September, he would not be required to find employment upon release but could begin retirement, Billak said.

CCA has a 28-bed area for federal inmates, generally two to three per room. An adjoining common room (lounge) has two phones and a TV that isn’t turned on until after dinner. Inmates have house assignments such as cleaning the laundry room and bathroom, vacuuming, and washing dishes. No alcohol is permitted.

Traficant, in requesting a different halfway facility, said he would not feel safe at CCA because Billak testified at Traficant’s racketeering trial in 2002.

In March 2002, Billak testified Traficant interceded to get contractor Anthony Bucci, who had been at a federal prison in North Carolina in the early 1990s, transferred to CCA.

Billak also testified about A. David Sugar Jr., another inmate sent to CCA with Traficant’s help. Sugar’s father, A. David Sugar Sr., admitted he committed perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering in the Traficant case.

Court records from Newark, Ohio, reveal why Sugar Jr. went to CCA.

On May 17, 1999, a judge in Licking County Common Pleas Court suspended the younger Sugar’s driver’s license for three years and sentenced him to a year in jail on a felony DUI conviction. The DUI was his fourth in six years.

Traficant had one of his staffers arrange for a lawyer, Mark S. Colucci, to represent Sugar Jr. and wrote letters to the judge and Billak at CCA, the government said. The judge ordered that, after 60 days in the Licking County jail, Sugar Jr. be released to CCA. Billak said Licking County has a halfway facility and Sugar could have stayed there.

Traficant wrote to Billak on July 15, 1999, and referred to a conversation about Sugar Jr. that Billak had that day with Anthony Traficanti, then the congressman’s regional director in Youngstown.

Traficant thanked Billak for assisting Sugar Jr. to continue his daily duties with his father’s construction company. Billak said he allowed Sugar Jr. to skip the 30-day waiting period at CCA and immediately resume work.

In return, Sugar Sr. did $10,000 worth of work at Traficant’s farm in Greenford, prosecutors said.

Traficant accepted free goods, services and labor at his horse farm from Bucci, Sugar Sr. and others. He paid them with congressional favors, not cash.

In April 2002, a jury in Cleveland found the nine-term Democrat guilty of all 10 counts he faced — including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. The jury, after a 10-week trial, believed that he took kickbacks from high-level staffers, used other staffers as farmhands on federal time, accepted cash gifts and services from businessmen, cheated on his taxes and tried to influence witnesses.

The House, using the trial transcript, found “clear and convincing evidence” that he broke House rules. The vote was 420-1 to expel him July 24, 2002, a week before he was sentenced.

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