Judge Throws Out Traficant's Suit Against Government

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. against the government and refused to delay the congressman's corruption trial.

Traficant's trial on 10 corruption and bribery charges is scheduled to begin Monday. He has denied the charges and is representing himself in court, even though he is not a lawyer.

The nine-term Youngstown Democrat (pictured, above) filed the lawsuit Wednesday, saying the government violated his civil rights by singling him out for prosecution. He asked for $250 million in damages and an injunction blocking his criminal trial.

But U.S. District Court Judge Peter Economus dismissed the suit Friday, saying the congressman has no evidence his rights were violated and has not met the basic requirements for bringing a civil rights suit.

Federal civil rights law requires that a plaintiff allege wrongdoing by a specific individual, which Traficant's did not do, Economus said.

In addition, Traficant's complaint "lacks any factual allegations" that the government discriminated against him.

Traficant has already been barred from claiming during his trial that he is a victim of a vendetta or misconduct by federal prosecutors, a centerpiece of his defense.

Economus ruled that Traficant cannot use a civil rights suit to forestall a criminal trial and that if he believes the prosecution to be unfair, he should make a motion to dismiss the charges before the judge in the criminal trial.

Traficant, whose one-minute House speeches against perceived government abuses are standard fare on C-SPAN, is accused of accepting gifts and favors from businessmen in exchange for lobbying federal agencies on behalf of their companies.

He claims that the government chose to pursue him because he successfully defended himself in a 1983 racketeering suit and that he has been considered a "trophy" for federal prosecutors ever since.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)