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Traficant tries avoids explusion

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Traficant Tries to Avoid Expulsion
Mon Jul 15,11:37 AM ET
By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. James Traficant ( news, bio, voting record) on Monday asked a House ethics panel considering whether he should be expelled from the House to hear evidence that he was not allowed to introduce in federal court, where a jury convicted him of fraud, bribery and tax evasion.

The Ohio Democrat, known for his wild hair, loud clothes and animated House speeches, also told the ethics subcommittee he would testify on his own behalf on charges he abused his office through violations paralleling the criminal charges.

Traficant said "it would a travesty" to deny him the opportunity to introduce tape recordings and call witnesses that a federal judge said he could not introduce in his trial earlier this year in Cleveland.

House Ethics Committee Chairman Joel Hefley, R-Colo., did not immediately respond to Traficant's request and directed the committee's staff to present its outline of charges against the nine-term congressman.

"We will reconsider this at the appropriate time," he told Traficant.

Each side will have about five hours to present its case, but the committee's lawyers will offer no witnesses, and expect to finish their presentation about 90 minutes, officials said.

At the end of the presentation, the committee will get chance to question Traficant himself and their lawyers before deciding whether any of the charges were proven.

"The burden of proof rests on the committee counsel," Hefley said.

Hefley warned Traficant that any antics would cause the committee to hear his case privately.

"Any breach of decorum or of these guidelines by any of the participants may result in a determination by the subcommittee to close the remainder of the procedures," Hefley said.

Trafficant is accused by another subcommittee of the ethics panel of a "continuing pattern and practice of official misconduct" as represented by his conviction on the criminal charges.

With his trademark cantankerousness, Traficant, 61, has continued to proclaim his innocence and vowed to oppose efforts by the House to take disciplinary measures against him, including expulsion.

Prosecutors have recommended that he serve at least 7 years in prison on the court convictions of taking kickbacks from staffers and bribes from businessmen. Sentencing is scheduled for July 30.

As he did in federal court, even though he is not a lawyer, Traficant who is seeking re-election as an independent, is defending himself before the eight-member ethics panel.

Under House rules, his felony conviction three months ago triggered an automatic investigation by the ethics panel. Expulsion is the harshest penalty, but the panel can recommend censure, reprimand or fines, all actions that require votes by the full 435-member House.

Expulsion requires the approval of two-thirds of the House members and has happened to only one congressman in the last 141 years: In 1980, Rep. Michael Myers, D-Pa., was expelled for accepting money from undercover FBI agents posing as Arab sheiks seeking favors from Congress.

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House finds traficant guilty { July 18 2002 }
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House votes to expel traficant { July 25 2002 }
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Traficant irs2 { January 26 2001 }
Traficant irs3 { April 15 1999 }
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Traficant tries avoids explusion
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