Jury Asks Judge To Clarify Racketeering Count

By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Jurors deliberated for a fourth day Thursday and asked for clarification of a racketeering charge in the corruption trial of U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.

The judge held a brief hearing to clarify that the racketeering charge accuses Traficant of a pattern of corrupt behavior but does not require jurors to find him guilty of any specific act of bribery. The racketeering charge is the 10th and final count of the indictment.

Prosecutors went to the courthouse, but Traficant (pictured, above) participated by phone. Traficant said he was unaware the jury would be called into the courtroom to discuss the question.

Before the jury entered the courtroom, U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells asked each side for their comments on the jury's question.

Traficant said to Wells: "I don't give a damn what you do. You allowed this case to be mishandled completely. I object to anything you do."

Wells thanked him for his comments, called the jury into the room, read them a definition of the racketeering charge and sent them back to deliberate. Shortly after, the jury took a lunch break.

Jurors considered the case for seven hours Wednesday after deliberating for 12 hours over the previous two days. Traficant did not make an appearance at the courthouse Wednesday.

The 10 female and two male jurors are being sequestered in hotel rooms without television sets so they cannot see anything about Traficant's case on the news.

Although he is not a lawyer, Traficant, 60, defended himself in the trial that began 2½ months ago.

The Democrat, known for his arm-waving tirades on the House floor against the IRS and the FBI, is accused of taking kickbacks from staff members and accepting gifts and free labor from businessmen in exchange for his political help. He also is accused of filing false tax returns.

The nine-term congressman faces up to 63 years in prison if convicted of all 10 counts. However, he probably would receive a much shorter sentence because of federal sentencing guidelines.

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