Congressman Says Justice Dept. Was 'After Jim Traficant'

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - Ohio Democrat James Traficant told his colleagues in the House Monday that the 10 felony convictions on which he is awaiting sentencing are the result of Justice Department persecution because he beat the agency in a previous criminal case.

"If you believe the United States Justice Department ... that they weren't after Jim Traficant, you're mistaken," Traficant said.

The Justice Department filed bribery charges against Traficant in 1983 while he was an Ohio sheriff. Those charges were tried and Traficant was found not guilty on all counts before taking office in 1994.

"I was the only American in [the] history of the United States, pro se [acting as his own attorney], to defeat the Justice Department in a RICO," Traficant said, referring to the Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organization Act. "The case boiled down to a confession. The confession was proved to be a fraudulent document and that's why I'm here."

In the current matter, Traficant was found guilty by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on April 11, 2002, of ten federal felonies, including: four counts of bribery, one count of receiving illegal gratuities, one count of obstructing justice, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, two counts of filing false income tax returns, and one count of racketeering.

He maintains that the convictions were based on hearsay and circumstantial evidence, and the selective restriction of rebuttal witnesses and evidence at his trial.

But Ken Kellner, an attorney for the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee, told the Subcommittee on Adjudication, that it is the offenses of which he was convicted, not a government grudge, that brought Traficant before the ethics panel.

"Representative Traficant engaged in a continuing pattern and practice of official misconduct through which he misused his elected office for personal gain," Kellner said.

"The evidence will show that Representative Traficant, in a pattern of misconduct, that repeated itself over and over and over again, traded his office and the duties he swore to uphold for money, farm equipment, free labor, and a myriad of other things of value," he said.

The government's case against Traficant, Kellner explained, will consist solely of transcripts and evidence submitted at the criminal trial. No new witnesses will be called.

Traficant says the court excluded rebuttal witnesses who, he claims, would testify that the government coerced other witnesses into testifying against him.

"These are all witnesses who were not able to present these salient points to a jury," Traficant charged.

The nine-term Democrat requested that the transcripts of all of the witnesses that were interviewed under oath, but not allowed to testify in his criminal trial, be included in the Congressional Record of the proceedings against him.

"I am facing probably a hundred years, and $3 million on a bunch of hearsay," Traficant claimed. "I make the motion that the witnesses I asked to be subpoenaed here be allowed to testify ... They never testified in Cleveland, none of my tapes were allowed to be introduced in Cleveland, and hardly any of my evidence was allowed to be introduced in Cleveland."

Chairman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) assured Traficant that the subcommittee wanted to hear his side of the story.

"I want you to get whatever you want on the record," he said. "I want you to get whatever witnesses you need to make your case that are relevant and not repetitive."

In all, Traficant wanted more that 60 witnesses to give testimony in his defense. The two witnesses the subcommittee had already agreed to hear were both unable to attend Monday's hearing. Hefley indicated his willingness to allow those witnesses to testify Tuesday afternoon.

E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.