Thursday, May 23, 2002

Traficant hires lawyers to challenge jury selection

By Paul Singer
The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — U.S. Rep. James Traficant, who defended himself during his corruption trial, has received permission to hire attorneys to handle one part of his motion for a new trial.

        U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells granted the request for Mr. Traficant's challenge of the jury selection process, saying it was appropriate to have lawyers involved because other federal cases could be affected.

        Although he is not a lawyer, Mr. Traficant defended himself on 10 charges of tax evasion, racketeering, and accepting bribes and kickbacks from businessmen and staff members.

        The nine-term congressman was found guilty April 11 on all counts against him. Judge Wells is scheduled to sentence Mr. Traficant on June 27. He faces a maximum possible penalty of 63 years in prison, though under federal sentencing guidelines he is likely to get less than 20 years.

        Disciplinary action from Congress could include expulsion, which would require approval from two-thirds of the 435-member House.

        Mr. Traficant is a lifelong Democrat, but he is running for re-election as an independent in a newly redrawn district that stretches from Youngstown to Akron.

        During his trial in Cleveland, Mr. Traficant argued that it was unfair to exclude prospective jurors from his hometown of Youngstown and other surrounding parts of his congressional district.

        The court's jurisdiction covers 40 northern Ohio counties, but Judge Wells said the court's standard procedure for trials such as Mr. Traficant's is to draw jurors from nine counties surrounding Cleveland.

        While Mr. Traficant has repeatedly rejected any suggestion that he should have legal representation, he has hired Columbus lawyers Percy Squire and Lloyd Pierre-Louis to argue the issue of jury selection in his motions for a new trial.

        Judge Wells granted Mr. Traficant's request Tuesday but said she will allow the “hybrid” representation only for the issue of jury selection, not for other issues of Mr. Traficant's appeal.


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