- Advertisement -
  • Most Commentedmost commented up
  • Most Emailedmost emailed up
  • Popularmost popular up
- Advertisement -

« News Home

What’s the criteria for granting immunity?

Published: Sun, July 5, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

By Bertram de Souza

One of the main subtexts of the political saga of James A. Traficant Jr. is how the man who admitted to bribing the then member of Congress never spent a day behind bars. Mahoning Valley mall developer J.J. Cafaro’s testimony was instrumental in Traficant’s conviction on 10 federal criminal charges, including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion.

Cafaro pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide an “unlawful gratuity” to the Valley’s top officeholder. (Never mind the hifautin legalese, it’s a bribe.) The Cafaro Co. executive received 15 months’ probation, was fined $150,000 and was required to testify in the trial of another individual caught up in the Traficant saga.

Federal prosecutors recommended leniency for Cafaro because they said his cooperation in the government’s criminal trial against Traficant was unprecedented.

How lenient were they? Not only did their key witness avoid serving any time for bribing a member of Congress, but federal prosecutors chose to disregard the fact that Cafaro, a political kingmaker and financial backer of federal, state and local politicians, admitted he lied when he testified under oath that he did not give any cash directly or indirectly to Phil Chance in his race for Mahoning County sheriff. Chance went to prison after being convicted of racketeering charges.

Cafaro was offered immunity from prosecution when he agreed to cooperate with the federal government in its investigation of Traficant.

Cash transaction

But even then, one of the Valley’s most prominent businessmen was not entirely truthful. He failed to inform prosecutors about the $13,000 in cash he claimed he had given Traficant.

Cafaro’s lawyer insisted that the transaction wasn’t a bribe, but was an “unlawful gratuity.” It is noteworthy that during the time of the transaction Traficant was working on Cafaro’s behalf to secure a federal contract for a radar navigation system that one of J.J. Cafaro’s companies was developing.

And who was the lawyer who worked out this great deal for his client? His name is Geoffrey Mearns, a high-powered, nationally renowned lawyer who now is the dean of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Mearns also is a former assistant U.S. attorney and was a special attorney to the U.S. attorney general.

And today, Mearns is one of three finalists for the U.S. District Court judgeship that has been vacated by Judge Peter C. Economus.

Economus has served in the federal court in Youngstown since 1995. He has taken senior status, which means he will hear cases on a limited basis.

His successor will be appointed by President Barack Obama, with Senate confirmation. The White House will receive a recommendation from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who, like Obama, is a Democrat. Brown and Ohio’s other senator, George V. Voinovich, a Republican, will interview the three finalists: Mearns; Judge Gene Donofrio of the 7th District Court of Appeals in Youngstown; and federal Magistrate Benita Pearson of Akron.

Given his r sum and his national reputation, Mearns has the inside track. As such, he undoubtedly will be questioned on a whole range of issues pertaining to the criminal justice system, including (it is to be hoped) the granting of immunity from prosecution. If Mearns is nominated, he would appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the confirmation process.


It would be instructive, indeed, to hear his answers to the following questions:

1. In light of J.J. Cafaro’s immunity deal, why should people not wonder if there is a two-tier system of justice in this country, one for the rich and the other for everybody else?

2. Has the goal by federal prosecutors to hook the “big fish” led to a willingness by the government to diminish the seriousness of crimes such as bribing a member of Congress or lying under oath?

3. Given that bribery of officeholders in the Mahoning Valley has been a part of the region’s political culture, should those paying the bribes not be treated as harshly as those accepting them?

The issue of the Valley’s reputation as a hotbed of public corruption and organized crime will undoubtedly be raised in the U.S. Senate. At least, it should.


1Laser(2 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

If you are going to report on the James Traficant Carafo debacle

Please report the facts.

Not only did Carafo not face incarceration - what JT was really incarcerated for was a car he bought from Carafo that broke down - a rental car was given to make due while the repairs were sought.

The person who owned the rental car agency was Okolo - who refused to do the perjury that Morford sought - so they deported him see Okolo's remarks


The one witness that was pressured to lie - confessed that he was threatened to do so by Morford - that was Detore - who went before Congress on C-SPAN and told the whole Truth.

C-SPAN has yanked down the story (wonder why)

Many persons on Vindy previously voiced about this issue

Report the Whole Truth Vindy

and do the Right Thing for your community and your country!

Suggest removal:

2Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

"Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?"

Suggest removal:

3Eliot_Ness_DC(3 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

1) Atty. Mearn's client J.J. Cafaro received a complete "Get-out-of-jail-free!" card from prosecutor Morford in exchange for suddenly 'remembering' that he gave a secret bribe to Traficant.

2) Former employee Richard Detore testified to Congress he had reported Cafaro Company tax evasion to prosecutor Morford.

3) Detore also told Congress that Morford pressured him relentlessly 1) to lie in support of J.J.'s bribery claim, and 2) to drop his civil suit against J.J., (who owed him $1.8 million).

4) Detore refused to lie.

5) J.J. then 'remembered' that his fired employee Detore was in fact the mastermind of the bribery attempt, and Morford indicted Detore.

6) A Cleveland jury didn't believe J.J. and Capri Cafaro -- Detore was quickly and unanimously acquitted.

7) Detore therefore kept his top security clearances, but J.J. and Capri's legal game-playing have kept Detore's life-saving landing technology off the market -- costing jobs in Youngstown, and lives at airports nationwide.

8) C-SPAN sometimes has server connection problems, but you can now watch the critical Detore testimony online. www.cspan.org > Video Library > Search > "traficant detore"

Here's a direct link: http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library...

9) J.J. and his brother Tony were subsequently caught in a blatant lie during a Fairfax County civil court battle with Detore -- claiming that J.J. was not a VP of the Cafaro Company.

10) The judge who sanctioned J.J. and Tony for lying, was Jane Roush who later became famous for her excellent handling of the DC 'sniper' case.

11) Judge Roush was reportedly not as amused as J.J., when he reportedly laughed and threw up his hands saying, "OK, you got me!" when he was caught in yet another lie.

12) So Youngstown, who do you believe?

Serial perjurers J.J. and Capri Cafaro?

Or patent-holding Top-Secret-cleared test pilot Richard Detore, and your former Congressman James Traficant?

Suggest removal:

4Eliot_Ness_DC(3 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Senate staffers vetting Mearns for a federal judgeship should want to research Mearns' defenses of three scandal-plagued Ohio political heavyweights:

Cleveland's Mr. Big: Jimmy Dimora, and
Youngstown's Mr./Ms. Big: J.J. Cafaro and his daughter Capri Cafaro

*** In the Cafaros' case, there is no indication that J.J. and Capri's immunities had anything to do with their money.

*** There is every indication that J.J. and Capri's immunities and leniencies were related to J.J.'s willingness to confess to a new, completely unsubstantiated crime, in order:
1) to avoid 18-24 months of jail time for his previously confessed perjury, and
2) to avoid prosecution for the Cafaro Company tax fraud and Torricelli money-scrubbing that were slam-dunk whistle-blown to Morford by J.J. and Capri's former employee, Top-Secret-cleared test pilot Richard Detore.

Suggest removal:

5Laser(2 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago


Thanks for the link - we too had noticed it was "vacant" at times.

There is a rumor that Craig Morford might have to testify in another matter.

Would love to see that.

It would be wonderful Justice - if James Traficant were voted back into Congress (and he learned better this time to use an attorney)

Would really be wonderful if an attorney were to partner with him - to be a True reformer against, tyranny, cronyism and corruption.

Keep up the good work!

Suggest removal:


HomeTerms of UsePrivacy StatementAdvertiseStaff DirectoryHelp
© 2016 Vindy.com. All rights reserved. A service of The Vindicator.
107 Vindicator Square. Youngstown, OH 44503

Phone Main: 330.747.1471 • Interactive Advertising: 330.740.2955 • Classified Advertising: 330.746.6565
Sponsored Links: Vindy Wheels | Vindy Jobs | Vindy Homes