Former congressman no longer on respirator, still unconscious


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

James A. Traficant Jr. remains in critical condition, but the former congressman is no longer on a respirator, the family’s spokeswoman said.

Traficant, who suffered a serious injury Tuesday night and has been unconscious since then, has always been breathing on his own, said Heidi Hanni, an attorney and the Traficant family spokeswoman.

A respirator he’s been on since he was hospitalized, and used as a backup in case he stopped breathing, was removed Friday afternoon, Hanni said.

“They had the respirator on him in case of a cardiac event; he is 73 years old,” she said. “But the respirator is off. [Doctors] didn’t feel it necessary to keep him on the respirator. Why have something down your throat if you don’t need it?”

The removal of the respirator is a “positive sign,” Hanni said.

But “I can’t speak to him turning a corner on a prognosis or a diagnosis,” she said.

Traficant is unconscious and under sedation, Hanni said.

The former congressman was seriously injured Tuesday night at his 76-acre family farm on West South Range Road in Greenford. The 1943 tractor he was driving rolled over backward onto him while he was still in the driver’s seat, trapping him underneath.

Traficant’s family, who remain at his bedside at St. Elizabeth Health Center’s intensive care unit, are waiting for “doctors’ reports and results of tests” to come back, Hanni said.

“We’re just waiting, and we don’t know when the information will be ready,” she said. “His family is strong. No one is giving up hope.”

A number of longtime family friends, including Linda Kovachik, who used to work as a congressional aide for Traficant, have told The Vindicator that it is believed Traficant had a heart attack, causing the tractor accident.

Outspoken, outrageous and colorful, Traficant served more than 17 years in the U.S. House as a Democrat until July 2002 when he became only the second member of Congress to be expelled since the Civil War.

That vote 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 attempted a political comeback in 2010, but was soundly defeated for his old congressional seat by Democrat Tim Ryan, who once worked for him as an aide.

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