Government Seeks At Least 7 Years In Prison For Traficant
July 12, 2002 at 6:48 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 3:41 AM
By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) - Government prosecutors are asking a federal court to sentence U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. to at least seven years in prison, and arguing that the severity of his corruption demands that he serve even more time.
Traficant (pictured, above) was convicted April 11 of 10 counts of bribery, tax evasion and racketeering. He is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court July 30.
The nine-term Youngstown Democrat was found guilty of requiring staff members to do personal chores for him and kick back a portion of their paychecks, and of accepting cash bribes and various favors from businessmen who were seeking his help in Washington.
The charges against Traficant carry a statutory maximum punishment of 63 years in jail, but the actual sentence is determined by the complex factors of federal sentencing guidelines.
In a brief filed Friday in federal court, government prosecutors argue that Traficant's conviction on bribery and racketeering charges puts him in a sentencing offense level that calls for 30 to 37 months in jail.
But the government argues that the guidelines mandate an increase in that level because Traficant also obstructed justice, abused the public trust and was a leader in organizing corrupt activity.
Combined, these factors would raise Traficant to a sentencing category that carries 70 to 87 months in jail, or nearly six to more than seven years. Prosecutors said he should get the maximum sentence of any range.
The government then argued that the court should add an unspecified amount of time because of the severity of Traficant's crimes and his lack of remorse.
"There is a small percentage of cases that warrant the highest sentence available," the government argues. "This is one such case."
The government contends that Traficant made his crimes worse by repeatedly making public allegations of misconduct by the FBI, Justice Department and the courts in handling his case.
"The fact that a member of Congress, one of the highest positions in our government, has been convicted of these crimes of dishonesty will cause some loss of public confidence in these institutions at the very time citizens must depend on them to ensure our domestic security," the government argues. "Such a pattern of venal, unrepentant misconduct should not be countenanced. Justice requires that it be punished harshly."
Traficant spokesman Charles Straub declined to comment.
The House Ethics Committee will begin hearings Monday on whether to expel Traficant from the House or impose other punishment.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)