Judge Rejects New Trial Request

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s complaints about the makeup of the jury that convicted him of bribery and racketeering do not qualify him for a new trial, the trial judge ruled Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Lesley Brooks Wells rejected Traficant's motion for a new trial.

Traficant, a Youngstown Democrat running for re-election as an independent, was convicted in April of tax evasion, accepting bribes from businessmen and taking kickbacks from staff.

He faces up to 63 years in prison at his sentencing July 30 but will likely get less time under federal sentencing guidelines. Most legal analysts say he will probably get fewer than 20 years.

Traficant (pictured, above) could not be reached for comment on the judge's ruling. A message was left for him at his district office.

Traficant had asked for a new trial on the basis of the way prospective jurors were selected. He claimed he was denied a jury of his peers because prospective jurors from Youngstown were excluded under the court's jury selection guidelines.

Under the standard arrangement, jurors for his Cleveland trial were selected from the surrounding nine-county region. Juries for federal trials in Youngstown are selected from a three-county area in the eastern edge of the state.

Traficant's request for a new trial also cited the judge's comment when his last defense witness was called: "If you want to testify in this case, then please proceed. This is the time."

Traficant didn't testify at his trial.

Wells said the comment did not represent an improper statement on his willingness to testify but reflected her determination to keep the trial moving after several days of delays caused cause by Traficant's inability to have witnesses available.

The judge said in her 44-page ruling that jurors were repeatedly reminded that a defendant isn't required to testify, and the lack of testimony by a defendant should not be held against the individual.

Meanwhile, former Traficant aide Henry DiBlasio, 72, a retired attorney now living in Riveria Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty Tuesday before Wells to a single count of perjury for lying to a grand jury when he denied giving kickbacks to Traficant.

DiBlasio, who worked for Traficant from 1985-98, could get up to 16 months in prison at his sentencing Sept. 26.

Another former Traficant aide testified at the congressman's trial that he had paid $2,500 monthly to Traficant.

Government attorneys didn't specify in court how much was paid by DiBlasio but said cash was sometimes given to Traficant in an envelope pushed under his private office door.

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