Reporter receives letters from Traficant

Traficant promised a second local reporter an interview.


YOUNGSTOWN — Former congressman Jim Traficant told a WFMJ news reporter in a letter he believes the federal government tried to pressure a potential witness to testify against him at his 2002 trial.

Traficant, of Poland, convicted of 10 felony counts including racketeering, bribery and tax evasion, will be released sometime Wednesday from the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., where he spent most of his seven-year prison term.

Reporter Michelle Nicks received two letters from Traficant over the weekend. She wrote to Traficant asking to know three things: what will he do when he gets out, how has life been for him in prison and has he moved on from the case that put him there.

In those letters, Traficant said he’ll continue to maintain his innocence and adds that the government put pressure on a witness to testify against him at his trial.

Traficant writes, “There’s a very interesting matter in my case — no one picked up on it — a black man, Mr. Okolo from Baltimore, was pressured to lie about me and Richard Detore.”

The federal government charged Detore with channeling illegal gifts to Traficant. A jury acquitted him in 2003.

Nnamdi Okolo, a Nigerian national who was working in the United States, filed an affidavit saying the government tried to pressure him to testify against Traficant.

In his letter, Traficant says Okolo, “wouldn’t do it, so they wrecked his life.”

The “they” Traficant is referring to are presumably the U.S. attorneys who prosecuted the case.

Even though Traficant says the Okolo matter is something no one has picked up on, Okolo’s affidavit has been available for scrutiny since it was posted on the Internet in 2007.

What’s left unsaid in his letter is how or if Traficant intends to use it when he gets out.

Other tidbits in the letter:

UTraficant says he expects to do interviews for a few national shows. He says he does not want any media at the Minnesota facility when he leaves, saying he will ignore them if they are there.

UTraficant did promise Nicks he would do an interview with her when he gets back in town.

In a recent letter to Stan Boney, a WYTV news anchor, Traficant said he did “not plan to meet with any press when I get back! If, and when I do, I’ll give you the exclusive.”

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