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THE NATION

Traficant Stays Defiant in Face of Congressional Ethics Probe

July 18, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Confrontational to the end, Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. on Wednesday accused House ethics panel lawyers of lying, the federal government of a vendetta and the jury that convicted him of not liking him because of his attitude.

"I've been railroaded once and I'll be damned if I'll be railroaded again," Traficant shouted over the pounding gavel of House Ethics Chairman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), who tried futilely to get the Ohio Democrat to calm down.

Traficant, convicted in April by a federal jury of bribery, tax evasion and racketeering, concluded his defense against House ethics violations with rants against people he accused of aligning themselves against him.

He complained bitterly to the eight-member panel about an FBI vendetta. "You're looking at the No. 1 target of the Justice Department, and I hate those bastards, and I think that America's starting to hate them too," Traficant said.

Lawmakers are deciding whether Traficant is guilty of accusations that he engaged in a "continuing pattern and practice of official misconduct" connected to the charges that he was found guilty of after a trial in Cleveland.

If the committee finds that he violated House rules, lawmakers would decide at a separate hearing whether to recommend that Traficant become the second congressman since the Civil War to be expelled from Congress.

Traficant said he plans on dressing in a denim suit and doing a "Michael Jackson moonwalk" on the House floor when it comes time to defend himself in front of the full 435-member House.

Traficant, 61, who has been abrasive to committee lawyers and panel members throughout the hearing, has indicated he expects to be found guilty again.

Prosecutors have recommended he serve at least seven years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for July 30.

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