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Juror remembers: ‘No doubt he was guilty’



Published: Wed, September 2, 2009 @ 12:01 a.m.

The former jury forewoman remembers the former congressman as ‘an arrogant person.’

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN — More than seven years since she served as forewoman on the jury that found ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. guilty of 10 felony counts, Helen J. Knipp remains convinced the 12-member panel made the right decision.

Looking back on the 10-week trial that ended April 11, 2002, Knipp of Mansfield said: “No doubt he was guilty. The evidence showed that pretty plainly. He got the sentence he deserved.”

The jury deliberated about 25 hours over four days before finding Traficant guilty of all charges against him, including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

Knipp said she’s surprised that more than seven years has passed since the trial ended.

Traficant is to be released from federal prison today.

Knipp doesn’t have fond memories of Traficant, calling him “an arrogant person.”

Seven years ago, Knipp told The Vindicator shortly after the verdict was read: “There were times when [Traficant] felt he was smarter than us; that he was a congressman and he was above it all and we were not. He was trying to confuse us, and he didn’t do it.”

Traficant severely damaged his case by insisting he defend himself, Knipp recently told the newspaper.

“I thought he got a pretty fair deal,” she recently said. “He’s fortunate he’s [going] to be a free man. It could have been a longer sentence.”

At the time of the trial, Knipp was a 62-year-old married cashier. Her husband, who has since passed away, was a truck driver. Traficant often referred to himself as “the son of a truck driver” as a way to relate to regular people.

Knipp, now 69, is retired.

As far as putting 10 weeks of her life on hold to serve on the Traficant jury, Knipp said: “It didn’t put a strain on me. It was something I’d do again. To me, it was a learning experience. Anyone with that opportunity should make the most of it. To me, it was a privilege.”

Traficant was sentenced to eight years in prison. Traficant’s sentence was reduced to a little over seven years and one month because of good behavior.

Paul Marcone, Traficant’s former congressional chief of staff, said his ex-boss’ insistence that he defend himself added years to his sentence.

“The tragedy of his case was if he had a good lawyer, he would have been out sooner,” Marcone said. “It was a tragedy he went to jail as long as he did. I’m glad he’s getting out.”

Traficant’s jury found him guilty of all 10 felony charges filed against him.

The jury convicted Traficant for accepting free labor — significantly reduced costs in some cases — and materials for his family farm in Green Township from several contractors in exchange for congressional favors.

Traficant was found guilty of accepting money, free repairs to and equipment for a houseboat he used to own in Washington, D.C., from J.J. Cafaro, a prominent local businessman, in return for helping to promote technology developed by a Cafaro-owned company to the federal government. Cafaro’s company eventually purchased the boat from Traficant.

The former congressman was convicted for requiring staff members to work at the farm and on the houseboat on government time.

He was also convicted of requiring some staff members to kick back part of their salary to him as well as filing false tax returns in 1998 and 1999.

skolnick@vindy.com


Comments

1EliotNess_DC(86 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Other jurors have a completely different story to tell about the yelling and screaming intimidation that went on in the jury room.

Two of the jurors have publicly stated that they would have acquitted Traficant if they had been allowed to hear Detore's testimony at trial.

Jurors' notebooks were secretly opened and read -- not by the janitorial staff!

One important witness was surreptitiously coached by the prosecutor during testimony, a fact that was reported to the judge who did nothing about it ... except to tell the prosecutor that he'd been caught in the act ... so that the signaling stopped after the break during which the prosecutor was apparently warned.

The US Marshal's made inappropriate remarks within the jurors' hearing (calling Linda Kovachik, for example, "Traficant's girlfriend" -- which was patently false).

The Government's handling of the Traficant trial stank ... but the most serious offense was the concealment of Nnamdi Okolo, the rental car company owner.

Okolo's sworn testimony (which can been seen online in an affidavit) utterly corroborated Detore's testimony about their one-and-only meeting to arrange a car rental for Traficant after a Cafaro-built clunker broke down.

Okolo's sworn testimony agrees with Detore's testimony to Congress on another point. Both men chronicled in detail the ferocious pressure put on them by the prosecution, to lie about Traficant.

Both men refused to lie, and both men and their families paid a terrible price for crossing the rageaholic Mr. Moford.

Detore was put on trial and had to spend $1.2 million to successfully defend himself from bogus accusations by the Cafaros.

Okolo was deported without a hearing under the Patriot Act to his native Nigeria, which he had left at age 11 to attend British boarding school. The government has also moved to deport his aged parents.

Okolo's testimony may will constitute the 'new evidence' necessary to instigate a new trial for Traficant.

In any case, perjury and obstruction of justice know no time limits. Traficant can now make life very challenging for Morford, Mearns, and the Cafaros because the Press is suddenly very interested in Traficant's loud and unceasing cry on innocence.

You'll be seeing JT on national TV sooner rather than later.

Youngstowners should ask themselves this question: Has Traficant acted the way that a truly innocent man would act if he were falsely convicted?

Traficant has said "I will die in prison before I admit to crimes that I did not commit."

Mercifully he did not die in prison.

True to his word, he did not admit to crimes that he did not commit.

Now, true to his word, Traficant has emerged with guns blazing to seek justice for Detore and Okolo -- men who could saved their families a lot of grief had they lied to satisfy prosecutor Morford.

I keep saying it, but I have to say it again: Youngstown, the Traficant fun has only just begun.

See you at the party Sunday!

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2Wanda(1 comment)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

I hope Traficant spills ALL the beans he's been saving up, and lets ALL the cats outta the bag to.

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3rocky14(735 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Good-by Jimbo--it was nice knowing you.Just ride off into the sunset like the rest of the crooks from the Mahoning County.

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4Attis(922 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Thank you Eliot Ness. No lie lives forever. And the lies that imprisoned Traficant and ruined the lives of Okolo and Detore will be exposed. God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes it takes a crucifixion to get to a resurrection of justice.

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5rocky14(735 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Maybe God put Jimbo in prison?

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6Mahcntyvoter(30 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Basically this juror convicted Trafficant because he was more educated than she was. Nice. That is definitely justice. Give me a break. This women should be put in jail for just being stupid.

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