Traficant Asks Ethics Committee For More Time To Prepare His Defense

WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. James Traficant, who was convicted last month of federal bribery and tax evasion charges, asked the House Ethics Committee on Wednesday for more time to prepare his statement of defense.

Traficant, D-Ohio, said he was given fewer than five business days to respond to the committee's request for his defense. He said his case is complex and he needs more time.

A four-member ethics subcommittee was chosen last month after the Ohio Democrat (pictured, above) was found guilty of taking kickbacks from staff members and bribes and gifts from businessmen.

The panel is expected to review trial transcripts and evidence to see if House rules were violated. Its work is done in private and could not be commented on publicly, a spokesman said.

Traficant, who has maintained his innocence and is appealing his case, said his conviction "jeopardizes any outspoken member of Congress who is not in the mainstream and who criticizes the bureaucracy and the status quo. Any member can now be targeted with nothing more than circumstantial witness testimony."

He faces as many as 63 years in prison at his June 27 sentencing. Disciplinary action from Congress could include expulsion, which would require approval from two-thirds of the 435-member House.

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