Former congressman’s family at bedside, awaiting doctors' assessment


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The family of ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., who remained in “very critical condition” late Thursday night after a farm-tractor accident, stays by his hospital bedside “waiting to hear from the doctors,” says his family’s spokeswoman.

“This takes time to see exactly what the situation is,” said Heidi Hanni, an attorney and the family’s spokeswoman. “He’s got the best doctors.”

Linda Kovachik, a longtime family friend and former Traficant aide, said Wednesday that Traficant is in a medically induced coma.

Hanni said Thursday that Traficant is unconscious and under sedation “for pain management, comfort and for tests,” but not in a medically induced coma.

Traficant, 73, is surrounded by his family members at St. Elizabeth Health Center, where he was taken Tuesday evening after the accident.

“The family wanted me to convey their appreciation for the prayers and support,” Hanni said. “Also, I can’t convey enough the family needs their privacy.”

Traficant, known for his fiery populist style and his political-corruption conviction in 2002, was seriously injured at his family farm on West South Range Road in Greenford.

Traficant was driving a 1943 Ford tractor about 7:50 p.m. Tuesday at his 76-acre family farm on West South Range Road. About 140 feet into a large pole barn the vehicle struck a large steel blade on the ground, Goshen Police Chief Steven T. McDaniel said.

That caused the tractor to roll over backward onto Traficant while he was still in the driver’s seat; he was trapped underneath the vehicle, according to McDaniel.

Kovachik said Wednesday that it is believed Traficant had a heart attack causing the tractor accident.

Hanni declined Thursday to comment on that, but said a day earlier that doctors had not yet confirmed Traficant suffered any heart attacks.

Traficant served more than 17 years in the U.S. House as a Democrat before being expelled in July 2002. He was only the second member of Congress expelled since the Civil War.

That came shortly after a federal jury convicted him of 10 felony counts including racketeering, bribery, tax evasion and obstruction of justice.

Traficant served a little more than seven years in federal prison before being released Sept. 2, 2009.

Traficant launched his political career with a successful bid in 1980 to be Mahoning County sheriff.

During his one term as sheriff, he made national headlines by refusing to sign property foreclosures, saying he didn’t want people to lose their homes. He also successfully defended himself in a federal trial on charges he took bribes from the mob in what he said was a one-man sting operation.

That led to a successful 1984 congressional run in which he beat three-term incumbent Republican Lyle Williams.

Traficant served in the U.S. House until being expelled in July 2002.

Traficant unsuccessfully ran for re-election from prison in 2002, and ran again in 2010 after he was released.

He lost both times to Democrat Tim Ryan, a former Traficant aide.

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