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‘Viaggio sicuro’ J.J. Cafaro

Published: Sun, June 5, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Did he really think his vacation to Italy and England would escape comment? J.J. Cafaro, the man with nine lives when it comes to the criminal justice system, has left the United States of America with his wife, Janet, and with the permission of U.S. District Court Judge Donald Nugent.

While their itinerary has not been made public, it no doubt includes visits to Rome and London.

As he approved the motion filed by Cafaro’s lawyers, Ralph E. Cascarilla and Darrel A. Clay of Cleveland, Judge Nugent could have been thinking that a visit to the Holy See would do wonders for Cafaro’s soul. And, in England, a visit to the Tower of London would put in perspective the crimes he committed for which he paid a small price.

The Cafaros flew out Thursday and return June 19. J.J. has provided the U.S. Attorneys Office in Cleveland and his probation officer with contact numbers overseas. Yes, he is on probation until 2013 for pleading guilty to a single count of violating a federal elections law stemming from his giving a false statement to the Federal Elections Commission.

The case was initially assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen O’Malley, who fined Cafaro $250,000, 150 hours of community service, and a $100 special assessment. The fine and special assessment were promptly paid, and last September he completed the community service.

But because J.J. is under the restriction that he not leave the federal court’s Northern District jurisdiction without permission, his lawyers sought and received approval for the overseas jaunt. Judge Nugent got the case after Judge O’Malley was appointed to the federal court of appeals.

Learning moment

This could be a learning moment for a man born with a golden spoon in his mouth.

Consider his visit to Rome.

He and his wife would undoubtedly spend time in St. Peter’s Basilica and marvel at the frescos in the Sistine Chapel. Of particular interest should be Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment.”

As he looks up and ponders the magnificence of the artistry and its deep message, he may want to pray: “God, forgive me for taking the riches bestowed upon me and using them as instruments of corruption.”

But that isn’t the only place where he can make an act of contrition.

He should go to The Holy Staircase, located adjacent to the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The stairs are believed to be the actual steps that Jesus climbed the day he was sentenced to death.

They were moved from Jerusalem to Rome on orders of Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine in 334 A.D.

There are 28 steps — equal to the number of years J.J. Cafaro could have spent in prison had various federal judges deemed that his bribing of a congressman, James A. Traficant Jr., his lying under oath in a federal trial, and his lying about giving $10,000 to his daughter Capri’s campaign for Congress warranted time behind bars.

He can make amends.

The true meaning of the Holy Staircase cannot be understood unless it is climbed while kneeling.

A prayer related to the passion of Jesus Christ is recited upon each of the 28 steps.

The first one is most appropriate for J.J. Cafaro. It says, in part:

“My Jesus, by the merits of your passion,

I pray that you inspire in me feelings of faith, of hope, and of charity,

and that you grant me pardon for my sins ...”


As he climbs each one on his knees, he will begin to understand the true meaning of penance. Half way up, his knees will begin to feel like they’re on fire. His back will ache. He will sway forward and back. He’ll worry that if he misses the next one, he’ll tumble all the way down.

If Italy provides a spiritual awakening, England offers a lesson of what would have happened to him had he lived in the 16th and 17th centuries during the peak period of the Tower of London.

It was used as a prison that housed many historical figures who had fallen into disgrace. Elizabeth I was held within the Tower’s walls before she became queen.

J.J. will understand the real meaning of the phrase “sent to the towers.” It’s something he has avoided, despite his serious brushes with the law.

It has been said that “God is an arbitrary God.” Perhaps.

(Postscript: “Viaggio sicuro” is Italian for Bon Voyage.)

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