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Traficant Rails at Expulsion Hearing

Politics: The Ohio Democrat, guilty of corruption, may face a rare House eviction.

July 17, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Insisting on his innocence, Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. on Tuesday loudly and defiantly told a House panel considering whether to recommend his expulsion that the U.S. government railroaded him into a bribery, fraud and tax evasion conviction.

"I have enough sense to realize what's going on," Traficant shouted from behind a table where he sat alone, fighting the possibility of becoming only the second House member since the Civil War to be kicked out.

"They railroaded the hell out of me, and they're doing it to millions of people around the country and the country's fed up with it."

Traficant, an Ohio Democrat, was convicted in April of taking kickbacks from employees and soliciting bribes and other gifts from businessmen. During a nine-week trial in Cleveland, Traficant also defended himself without a lawyer.

Prosecutors have recommended he serve at least seven years in prison for taking kickbacks from staffers and bribes from businessmen. Sentencing is set for July 30.

Answering questions for the first time on the charges, the 61-year-old Traficant insisted that all of the witnesses in the criminal trial lied and were forced to do so under threat of reprisal by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.

The nine-term lawmaker has complained about a government vendetta since he beat the FBI in a bribery case in 1983.

During exchanges with the House ethics committee, Traficant denied that ex-staff member Allen Sinclair gave him $2,500 in cash each month, as Sinclair testified.

House rules require an ethics panel investigation when a lawmaker is convicted of a felony.

Expulsion has befallen only one member since the Civil War: Rep. Michael Myers (D-Pa.), who in 1980 accepted money from undercover FBI agents.

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