Judge Approves Traficant's Request For Partial Representation

By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - A federal judge has granted convicted Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s request that he be allowed to hire attorneys to handle part of his appeal.

Traficant (pictured, above) said he needed Columbus, Ohio, lawyers Percy Squire and Lloyd Pierre-Louis to help him challenge the legality of the pool from which jurors were selected at his trial.

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

Traficant had argued that it was unfair to exclude prospective jurors from his hometown of Youngstown, located 70 miles southeast of Cleveland, and other surrounding parts of his congressional district.

While Traficant has repeatedly rejected any suggestion that he should have legal representation, he said he wants lawyers to argue the issue of jury selection.

"While I continue to have confidence in my ability to defend myself against these baseless charges, I do not want my preoccupation with my individual defense to prejudice presentation of the jury selection challenge," Traficant told the judge in a written memo last week.

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

"Congressman Traficant is challenging the Juror Selection Plan of the Northern District of Ohio, which has applied to every criminal case in this district since 7 April 1997," Wells wrote. "This challenge potentially could affect other defendants in criminal cases. It is, therefore, appropriate that this issue have the participation of attorneys."

But Wells added that for any matter Traficant brings to the U.S. Court of Appeals, she does not have the authority to approve a hybrid representation plan.

Government prosecutors have argued Traficant should not be allowed hybrid representation. They said other courts have disallowed proposals for hybrid representation, and Traficant was told by the court a year ago that his decision to represent himself meant he could not hire attorneys for a portion of the defense.

Traficant, a Democrat who is not an attorney, refused to hire a lawyer for his trial, saying an attorney could be intimidated by federal prosecutors.

Traficant was found guilty April 11 of all 10 counts against him, including accepting bribes and gifts from businessmen in exchange for lobbying state and federal regulators on their behalf.

The congressman also required some staff members to pay him a portion of their salaries and others to work at his farm on government time, the jury concluded.

Sentencing is scheduled for 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.

Traficant is running for re-election as an independent in a newly redrawn district that stretches from Youngstown to Akron.

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