James Traficant

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James Traficant

James Anthony Traficant, Jr. (born May 8, 1941) is a former Democratic Representative in the United States Congress from Ohio (from 1985 to 2002). He represented the 17th Congressional District, which centered around his hometown of Youngstown and includes parts of three counties in northeast Ohio's Mahoning Valley. He was expelled after being convicted of taking bribes and filing false tax returns. He was released from prison on September 2, 2009, after serving a seven-year sentence.[1]

Traficant's wife, Tish, has reportedly stated[2] that he did not accept the DOJ's invitation to be supervised on early release by Richard J. Billak (the CEO of CCA). Billak had testified against him during Traficant's 2002 Federal Bribery trial.[3][4]

Traficant began work as a talk radio host for WTAM in January 2010. His contract permits him to quit if he runs for office. [5] On February 23rd, 2010, Traficant indicated that he will run for Congress, possibly as an independent.

Contents

Early life and career

Born into a working-class, Catholic family in Youngstown, Ohio, Traficant graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School in 1959 and the University of Pittsburgh in 1963 (where he was a standout in football), was drafted into the NFL by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1963, and obtained a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and another from Youngstown State University. He was the executive director of the Mahoning County Drug Program from 1971 to 1981 and Sheriff of Mahoning County from 1981 to 1985. While serving as Sheriff, Traficant made national headlines by refusing to execute foreclosure orders on several unemployed homeowners, many of whom had been left unemployed by the recent closures of steel mills. This endeared him to the local population, which had long derived its wealth from steel and steel-associated businesses.[6] In 1983, he was charged with racketeering for accepting bribes. Traficant, who represented himself in the criminal trial, argued that he accepted the bribes only as part of an undercover investigation into corruption. Traficant was acquitted of the charges, becoming the only person ever to win a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case while representing himself.

Publicity from the RICO trial increased Traficant's local visibility. He was elected as a Democrat to Congress from Ohio's 17th District, defeating Lyle Williams, a three-term Republican incumbent. He was reelected eight times without serious opposition.

On April 12, 2002, after a two-month federal trial, a jury found Traficant guilty of bribery and other charges. He was sentenced to a federal prison, where he served seven years. He was expelled from the U.S. Congress on July 24, 2002.

Independent voice

In the House, Traficant was known for his flamboyant and eccentric style. He was a constant thorn in the side of the Democratic caucus with his eccentric behavior, an image he embraced. He often dressed poorly, with narrow neck ties (then out of style), wide-lapelled sportcoats and an occasional denim suit. He also sported an ugly, unkempt pompadour, which he jokingly claimed he cut with a weed whacker (it was revealed, after his conviction, that he wore a toupee). Casting himself as a rough-hewn populist and "regular guy," he gave speeches that were far outside the staid norms of political speaking. Many people tuned into C-SPAN just to watch his one-minute speeches at the beginning of each day's sitting.[citation needed] His trademark closing lines were "Beam me up... I yield back the fact..." His Website featured a picture of him swinging a two-by-four with the words "Bangin' away in D.C."

After the Republicans took control of the House in 1995, Traficant tended to vote more often with the Republicans than with his own party. On abortion, for instance, Traficant voted the pro-life position of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) 95% of the time in the 105th Congress, and 100% of the time in the 106th and 107th Congresses. However, he voted against all four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton. After he voted for Republican Dennis Hastert for Speaker of the House in 2001, the Democrats stripped him of his seniority and refused to give him a committee assignment. Because the Republicans did not assign him to any committee, Traficant became the first member of the House of Representatives in over a century without any committee assignment who was not in a leadership position.[citation needed]

Traficant championed the unpopular cause of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born autoworker from Seven Hills, Ohio, who had been brought to trial in Israel accused of being a concentration camp guard named "Ivan the Terrible." For almost a decade, Traficant (along with Pat Buchanan) insisted that Demjanjuk had been denied a fair trial, and been the victim of mistaken identity; the Supreme Court of Israel eventually overturned the conviction in 1993.

While in Congress, Traficant was a supporter of immigration reduction,[7] and a strong opponent of illegal immigration. In the controversy surrounding the defeat of Congressman Bob Dornan (R-CA) by Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Traficant was the only Democratic member of Congress who advocated a new election, due to possible voting in that race by illegal aliens. Sanchez would later introduce a bill expelling Traficant from the House of Representatives.[8]

Indictment, conviction, testimony to House Ethics, and expulsion from Congress

In 2002, Traficant was indicted on federal corruption charges for taking campaign funds for personal use. Again, he opted to represent himself, insisting that the trial was part of a vendetta against him dating to his 1983 trial. On April 15, he was convicted of 10 felony counts including bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. As per House rules, he lost his right to vote on legislation pending an investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

On July 16, 2002, during its misconduct hearing, the Ethics Committee heard testimony from Richard Detore, who testified on Traficant's behalf (broadcast on C-SPAN).[9]

Detore testified that Craig Morford, the U.S. Attorney on the case, was tampering with witnesses and committing criminal prosecutorial misconduct related to the alleged Youngstown, Ohio's Cafaro Company's involvement in tax fraud and mafia money-laundering. It was alleged that J.J. Cafaro intended for his daughter, Capri Cafaro to run against Traficant in the next congressional election. Capri told Detore that J. J. Cafaro perjured himself throughout his own trial, and that it caused problems for his family. The prosecutor threatened that the Internal Revenue Service would audit him if he did not testify according to a "script", and that he would prove Detore committed bank fraud, which was false. Morford continuously attempted to harass, agitate and intimidate, "yelling, screaming, and throwing papers at" Defore for being "uncooperative", and he "was getting on the wrong train". Detore refused to lie for anyone for any reason, and refused to testify. Detore's home was ransacked. Morford had granted him direct and indirect immunity, but denied it, after Detore refused to testify. "It was a process by ambush... an out-of-body experience." Even with exculpatory evidence, Morford indicted Detore with one count of conspiracy to violate the Federal Bribery Statute by serving as liaison between his former employer, U.S. Aerospace Group, and Traficant, but was acquitted[10] by a jury. See C-SPAN videos: here.[11][12]

Ohio Congressman Ted Strickland was so disturbed by these sworn and televised allegations of DOJ misconduct that he publicly called for an investigation.[13] But DOJ 'internal affairs'[14] ignored Strickland, never investigating either the sworn military earwitness affidavit[15] or the attorney billing records[16] that corroborated the dates/times of harassing witness tampering phone calls testified to on C-SPAN and in the affidavit.

The House Ethics Committee recommended that Traficant be expelled from Congress. On July 24 the House voted 420-1 to expel him. Gary Condit was the lone "no" vote, and nine members voted "present." Traficant was the first representative to be expelled since Michael Myers's expulsion in 1980 as a result of the Abscam scandal.

After his expulsion, Traficant ran as an independent candidate for another term in the House while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute, Allenwood.[17] He received 15 percent of the vote (27,487 votes) and became one of only a handful of individuals in the history of the United States to run for a federal office from prison. The election was won by one of his former aides, Tim Ryan.[18]

Prison

Traficant served his first 17 months in prison at FCI Allenwood and shortly after, he was shackled and put in solitary confinement for causing a riot after telling a guard, "People can't hear you. Speak up."[19] For nine months, beginning in March 2004, he served with 20 inmates in one locked room at the Federal Correctional Institution Raybrook with a public commode, and with four in a room at Federal Medical Center, Rochester for three years. He was admonished by prison officials in Raybrook he was only a "few points away" from a penitentiary. In the seven years of incarceration, he refused any visitors because he didn't want anyone to see him. He wore his hair in a pony tail without his trademark hairpiece. Traficant took up artwork while in prison; according to his wife, he did not have access to a computer there. "I understood the dynamics of prison life." Regarding the overcrowded prison system he said, "And now what you have is, they want to keep the prisons open, keep the jobs going. They're putting 20, 30 years on some of these young people, and it's out of hand." He was released on September 2, 2009, at age 68, and is subject to three years of probation.[20]

While in prison, Traficant received support from David Duke, who urged visitors to his personal website to donate to Traficant's canteen fund. Duke also posted a letter written by Traficant stating that he was targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice for, among other things, defending John Demjanjuk. Traficant also claimed, in the letter, that he knew facts about "Waco, Ruby Ridge, Pan Am Flight 103, Jimmy Hoffa and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy", which he may divulge in the future. Author Michael Collins Piper, who initially helped circulate Traficant's letter, said that "There's stuff I've written about Traficant that's showing up in places I don't even know. It's like (six) degrees of separation with the Internet now," and denied that Traficant had any direct connections to Duke.[21]

Release from prison

Traficant was released from prison on September 2, 2009 after serving seven years in prison. On September 6, 2009, 1200 supporters welcomed him home at a banquet with an Elvis impersonator and a Traficant look-a-like contest. "Welcome home Jimbo" was printed on T-shirts. "I think it's time to tell the FBI and the IRS that this is our country and we're tired -- tired of the pressure, tired of the political targeting, tired of a powerful central government that is crippling America," he said. Traficant said he hasn't decided yet whether he will run again for Congress. He also said he doesn't care about what anyone did to him or does to him in the future. "I'm going to say what I think is right, I'm going to do what I think is right," he said. "And if it offends some people, then so be it. You see, because I'm still, I guess, the same jackass I was."[22][23][24]

Current political views

In an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren in September, 2009[19], he said he was the top target of AIPAC and the U.S. Justice Department. On the subject of Israel, he stated:

They [Israel] are controlling much of our foreign policy. They're influencing much of our domestic policy. Wolfowitz as undersecretary of defense manipulated President Bush number two back into Iraq. They've pushed definitely, definitely to try to get Bush before he left to move into Iran. We're conducting the expansionist policy of Israel and everybody's afraid to say it. They control much of the media, they control much of the commerce of the country, and they control powerfully both bodies of the Congress. They own the Congress.

When asked, Traficant denied he is anti-Semitic, saying he is rather against "a one-sided foreign policy in the Mideast."

He said he had predicted another economic depression, but people at the time had just laughed at him.[25][26][27] Traficant has also expressed his support of the Fair Tax plan and criticized President Obama's stimulus bill. He has said of Congress, "I think it is a big whorehouse and they better start taking care of America and stop worrying about the Middle East and worry about the Midwest."[28]

After his release from prison, he was featured as a guest speaker at a Tea Party Protest in Columbiana, Ohio. [29] He has also committed to speaking at an American Free Press-sponsored event in Washington D.C. in February.[30] Traficant is currently planning to run for congress as an independent in either the 6th or 17th districts of Ohio.[31]

Notes

  1. Inmate Finder. Bureau of Prisons Web site. Retrieved on 2007-11-12.
  2. http://www.vindy.com/news/2008/dec/14/traficant-may-forgo-cca-house-friend-says/ Traficant won't go to halfway house (December 14, 2008).
  3. http://www.fox8.com/news/wjw-news-traficant-promotion,0,610757.story
  4. http://ethics.house.gov/Investigations/Default.aspx?Section=37 Trial Transcript, March 4/5, 2002.
  5. Traficant lands a part-time job on radio
  6. Peyko, Mark C. Notes From Youngstown: The Angry Voice of a City Left Behind. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-03-24.
  7. "All Immigration Votes of Representative James Traficant." NumbersUSA. Accessed January 6, 2008.
  8. "Congress beams up Traficant." In the Crossfire. CNN. July 25, 2002. Accessed January 6, 2009.
  9. http://www.eToys-Bankruptcy-Fraud.info/cspan.wmv C-SPAN Video (July 16, 2002).
  10. http://archive.is/20121129155051/www.convertino.blogspot.com/
  11. http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/includes/templates/library/flash_popup.php?pID=171263-2&clipStart=&clipStop=
  12. http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/includes/templates/library/flash_popup.php?pID=171263-3&clipStart=&clipStop=
  13. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,58248,00.html Fox News (July 23, 2002).
  14. http://www.usdoj.gov/opr/ Called the "Office of Professional Responsibility".
  15. http://www.eToys-Bankruptcy-Fraud.info/navycapt.pdf Affidavit (June 25, 2002).
  16. http://arentfox.com/people/index.cfm?fa=profile&id=193 John Nassikas Esq. of Arent Fox.
  17. "Traficant arrives at federal prison". CNN. 2002-08-06. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/08/05/traficant.prison/. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  18. "The 2002 Elections: Midwest; Ohio". The New York Times. 2002-11-07. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/07/us/the-2002-elections-midwest-ohio.html. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Van Susteren, Greta (2009-09-10). Exclusive: Traficant - 'I Was a Target. ... I Must Have Been Doing Something Right'. Fox News. Retrieved on 2009-11-13.
  20. Merchant, Norman (2009-09-02). Ex-congressman Traficant freed. Canton Rep. Associated Press. Retrieved on 2009-09-29.
  21. White nationalists, conspiracy theorists join Traficant’s cause. Retrieved on September 21, 2009.
  22. Disgraced Fmr. Rep. James Traficant Released From Prison by Lindsey Ellerson, ABC News, September 2, 2009.
  23. Ex-Con Jim Traficant Weighs Reelection to House by Devin Dwyer, ABC News, September 15, 2009.
  24. Traficant Completes Sentence for Bribery by Mary Jordan, Washington Post, September 3, 2009.
  25. Traficant: I could have been hurt while in prison, Associated Press (posted on Google.com), September 10, 2009.
  26. Traficant rips 'enemies' at welcome-home party by Janet Okoben, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland.com) September 07, 2009.
  27. Traficant: Israel has ‘stranglehold’ on U.S. gov’t, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), September 13, 2009.
  28. Jim Traficant: 'Stimulate this'. Retrieved on September 24, 2009.
  29. Traficant Draws Cheers at TEA Party. Retrieved on September 16, 2009.
  30. Jim Traficant: 'I'm going to run'. Retrieved on December 30, 2009.
  31. Traficant will launch independent congressional bid. Retrieved on February 23,2010.
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