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Filmmaker’s work focuses on Traficant

Published: Mon, October 17, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.

VALLEY NATIVE seeks donations for documentary production

By Amanda C. Davis


We all know the story: A steel town collapses, virtually overnight. Organized crime infiltrates the area. A once- beloved congressman goes to jail for accepting bribes.

Most of the details are common knowledge for people who have lived through the Mahoning Valley’s storied — and often sordid — past.

But Los Angeles filmmaker Eric Murphy, a 1994 graduate of Warren’s JFK High School, is betting that story will have a much-broader appeal.

For 10 years, Murphy, a writer/producer for The History Channel, has been consumed with the rise and fall of former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. His 90-minute documentary, “Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown,” is entering its post-production phase but Murphy needs help to see the project through.

He’s spent about $10,000 of his own money so far but is asking for the public’s support to raise an additional $25,000.

This is being done through Kickstarter.com, a fundraising platform for creative projects.

The site solicits “all-or-nothing” funding, meaning projects must reach a funding goal by a specific date before money changes hands. Murphy has until Nov. 30 to raise the money.

He is offering incentives for donations that include a signed DVD of the documentary, movie posters and Traficant T-shirts and books.

Pledging $500 or more gets donors a “Youngstown Tune Up,” which includes two jars of Murphy’s mom’s hot peppers in oil, a “thank you” in the movie credits, a movie poster, T-shirt and DVD.

Donors who pledge $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000 get a producing credit at the end of the documentary and various other perks.

“This will be a living document for generations to follow,” Murphy said in a recent telephone conversation from Los Angeles.

He said it explores the time between the collapse of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. in 1977 and Traficant’s release from federal prison in 2009. The former federal lawmaker and Mahoning County sheriff served seven years for bribery, racketeering and other charges.

Though the film depicts Traficant’s flamboyant side, the overall tone is not anti-Traficant, Murphy said. The former congressman is not involved with the project, though Murphy extended him that courtesy.

An attempt by The Vindicator to contact Traficant was unsuccessful.

Murphy and producer Jeff Alberini of Howland have spoken to former and current elected officials, including Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, former Youngstown Mayor Patrick J. Ungaro and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, a former Traficant aide who defeated his former boss for the congressional seat.

Others interviewed include Vindicator columnist Bertram de Souza, FBI agents, judges and “Modern Family” star Ed O’Neill, a Youngstown native.

Murphy said the documentary will bring forth information that isn’t general knowledge and cited a conversation he had with Ungaro regarding car bombs and bribes he was offered but declined during his time as mayor.

“It’s the kind of stuff that makes your jaw drop open,” Murphy said.

He also explained his interviews revealed Traficant was offered a deal to serve six months to a year on the federal charges but rejected it.

Ungaro told The Vindicator that time period in Youngstown’s history and events involving Traficant will draw an audience for the documentary. “Those are interesting topics,” he said, calling Traficant a “likable and talented guy.”

When questioned about his tenure as mayor and bribes he was offered, Ungaro said it wasn’t hard for him to stay straight when so many of his friends and associates were traveling a different path.

“I just did the right thing, though I think a lot of people don’t believe that,” he said. “The influence of the Mafia was in every segment of our community.”

Though the documentary explores Youngstown’s darker days, Murphy said he wants viewers to walk away with a sense of hope that the area is “turning the corner.”

The documentary should be complete in late 2012, and Murphy said he’ll plan screenings in Youngstown, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. It also will be entered in a few film festivals, and Murphy said he’s in talks with network agents and producers to find a home for it.

Murphy grew up in Warren and has a film-marketing degree from Youngstown State University and a master’s degree in film production from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.


1bmanresident(607 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, and everytime I drive on the 711, I think of what a "bottom-feeder" Jimbo was. Come on! He was a brilliant no nonsense type of congressman, something Washington needs right now! I'd vote for Jimbo again and again! Traficant for Prez!!

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2AtownAugie(892 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Due to the sheer number of shows on the subject, many jokingly refer to The History Channel as The Hitler Channel. Once the Traficant documentary airs, The Huckster Channel?

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

The trailer is very good. I hope he gets his funding and also ends the film with the legacy of the people who he interviews have left us - torn up streets, empty buildings, going out of business signs, moved to a new location signs, etc.

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4ghostofjohnyoung(163 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Uggh more people asking for "donations". Get a damn job and risk your own hard earned money.

Who is going to be next virtually panhandling via the Vindy's feature article???!?!?!?!

/ A steel town collapses, virtually overnight. Organized crime infiltrates the area. /

Wrong order:

Organized crime infiltrates the area. A steel town collapses, virtually overnight.

Much better.

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5Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

“The influence of the Mafia was in every segment of our community.”

After Jimbo was bribed he found himself in the slammer and the one who bribed him stayed free . Maureen Cronin got herself a free vacation after doing it their way . Nothing has changed and The Valley is still run behind closed doors . . ..

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6madman(50 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Thats right its was not all Jimbo ! And yes i would vote for JIMBO .We know what hes doing now we don t know what the city of youngstown is doing!!!!!!!!!!!

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7DwightK(1537 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Will Traficant and his legacy of corruption never stop polluting this area?

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8egnin1(15 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Wow people. He might have been convicted of a crime. But i remember him fondly from my Time Working at the old Amoco on Midlothian and south. he would come in with his Blue Diesel olds and fill up on his way to Washington once a week. he would sit there and have coffee with us and talk for about a hour. he helped me get some things i needed for school and helped my sister get a passport to Germany where her husband was stations when not even the army could get it. and he got it for her in 3 days. the man was the best thing to ever happen to Youngstown. even if he did take a bribe or two. and dont think Ungaro never took anything. a fool knows he was corrupted more then anyone.

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9kensgirl(1064 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Oh c'mon! He said he's just doing the right thing? You must think all of us have the Traficant mentality! All Mr. Murphy thinks about is his pocket book. He doesn't give a damn about the Mahoning Valley. You got brass ones Murphy. You write the book on kicking someone when they're down. Take your movie and stick it. Talk about bottom feeders.

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10SICKOFSTUPID(5 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Anyone who thinks Jimbo is the only person to ever take a bribe is a complete idiot. He has done a lot for the valley so leave the guy alone, he did his time in jail unlike all the other crooks out there that just didnt get caught yet. love you jimmy. TRAFICANT FOR PRESIDENT!!!!!!!

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11Attis(1134 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

If Traficant is not involved in this film then it will be nothing more that a piece propaganda designed to perpetuate lies and stereotypes in order to further hide the liberating truth The Honorable James Traficant incarnates.

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12Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Eric Murphy doesn't have the stamina to take on the real power in The Valley . The power behind the downfall of James Traficant . . .. THE CAFARO EMPIRE . . .. Will they even get an honorable or dishonorable mention in the documentary ?

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13DwightK(1537 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Many Traficant supporters conveniently overlook his failures, which include taking bribes and collecting kickbacks from his staff. This reinforced the notion that this area was corrupt which kept companies from locating here. These supporters also fail to recognize that Traficant became a one man show in congress at a time when he should have been cultivating relationships with other leaders to help bring more jobs to this area. These supporters somehow see his maverick, no BS tactics as a success when in reality he was isolating the Mahoning Valley politically. To point to the 711 connector, a couple of courthouses and the Covelli Centre as successes is ridiculous. Those one off projects should have been part of a larger plan to stop the bleeding. Instead they are actually monuments to what could have been if we had adequate representation in Washington.

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14Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

To blame Jimbo for anything is to simply create a diversion . The powers in The Valley are besides themselves that a man who has little power is getting all of the attention and allowing them to go on unnoticed . They like it this way . . . ..

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15kensgirl(1064 comments)posted 4 years, 9 months ago

Jimbo did some good I have to admit. But more bad came out of his administration than good, Youngstown became a laughing stock. Jim couldn't even get security clearance - what does this tell us? I still say Murphy, take your documentary and put it where the sun don't shine. Traficant and his ilk are history. The old timers who voted for someone just because they had a "D" after their name are all dead now. Let history take its place in books. Let it go and focus on taking thugs and drugs off the streets. There lies our real problem.

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