Judge Pushes Back Traficant Sentencing

By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday gave U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. an extra month to prepare for his sentencing on federal bribery, corruption and racketeering charges.

The Youngstown Democrat, running for re-election as an independent, was convicted by a jury April 11 of 10 counts of tax evasion, accepting bribes from businessmen, and taking kickbacks from staff.

Sentencing was scheduled for June 27. But U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells ruled that due to questions about Traficant's legal representation, sentencing will be pushed back to July 30.

Traficant faces up to 63 years in prison, but under federal sentencing guidelines he is likely to get far less time. Most legal analysts say he will probably get fewer than 20 years.

Traficant insisted on defending himself throughout the trial, but since the verdict, several lawyers have filed motions on his behalf.

Two lawyers filed a brief supporting Traficant's motion for a new trial, which is pending.

A third lawyer, Richard Hackerd, submitted documents saying he would represent Traficant only for sentencing.

Wells noted Thursday that Traficant has never officially told the court that Hackerd will represent him. If he does accept Hackerd as his attorney, Wells wrote, "Mr. Traficant's role at the sentencing hearing will be limited to that of a defendant in any criminal case."

Hackerd will make all motions and appeals to the court, and Traficant will have limited opportunities to speak.

During the trial, Traficant frequently offered comments and questions that were ruled out of order, challenged legal rulings and shouted at the judge and prosecutors.

Wells gave Traficant until June 20 to inform the court whether he plans to accept Hackerd's assistance.

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