- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2002

CLEVELAND (AP) One day after a federal jury found him guilty of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion, Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. announced yesterday that he would run for re-election and appeal the verdict.
The nine-term Ohio Democrat was convicted Thursday on all 10 federal charges he faced, including taking kickbacks from staff and bribes and gifts from businessmen. The jury also ordered him to forfeit $96,000 in ill-gotten gains from racketeering spanning more than a decade.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of 63 years in jail, though under federal sentencing guidelines, he is likely to get a much lighter sentence at the hearing June 27.
He also could face an additional $2 million in fines for the nonracketeering charges in the indictment.
House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt called on Traficant to resign from Congress, but Traficant made it clear yesterday that he was going his own way.
"I have no plans to resign, and I intend to run as an independent in November for the 17th District of Ohio." Traficant said yesterday. "I will not allow the government to get rid of Jim Traficant without a fight."
The congressman has until May 6 to file papers to be a candidate.
Traficant could return to Capitol Hill while awaiting sentencing, but House rules bar anyone convicted of a felony from voting on legislation.
The House ethics committee said it will consider disciplining Traficant, with possible penalties including expulsion, censure, reprimand and fines. Only once since the Civil War has a congressman been expelled from the House by his colleagues.
"At the heart of all public service is personal integrity," Mr. Gephardt said. "A member of Congress who breaks the law betrays the public trust and brings discredit to the House of Representatives."
The jury in Traficant's trial concluded that several Youngstown businessmen provided free work on the congressman's houseboat and horse farm. Traficant, in exchange, lobbied state and federal regulators on their behalf, the jurors found.
They also found him guilty of requiring some staff members to pay him a portion of their salaries and making others work at his farm on government time.
After each count, U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells asked Traficant if he wanted the jurors to restate their verdict.
"No," Traficant replied softly. He later told the jury the evidence was circumstantial and the trial was "a very unfair process." But he added: "I accept your verdict."
Traficant, who is not an attorney, represented himself in the 10-week trial and often was chastised by the judge for not following procedure. On several occasions, he shouted at witnesses, government attorneys and the judge.
The 60-year-old congressman contended the government was out to get him because he beat the FBI in a racketeering case 19 years ago, when he was a Mahoning County sheriff accused of taking mob money. He successfully argued that he was conducting an undercover sting operation.
The acquittal made him something of a local folk hero and helped get him elected to Congress. He quickly became known for his unruly hair, loud wardrobe and tempestuous floor speeches in which he railed against the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service.
In Traficant's latest trial, prosecutors called 55 witnesses to testify against him and submitted as evidence bank records showing large cash deposits. They also produced a briefcase stuffed with $24,500 in cash that one witness said the congressman asked him to hide.
Traficant's Washington office issued a statement yesterday saying the congressman would appeal the verdict. It said Judge Wells limited his defense, favored the government and prohibited defense witnesses from testifying.

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