House Panel Sends Traficant Transcripts To White House

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - A House panel is sending transcripts from former Rep. James Traficant's ethics hearing to the White House, where the lead prosecutor in his case is being screened for a possible appointment as a U.S. Attorney.

During ethics hearings earlier this month, Richard Detore, former chief operating officer of U.S. Aerospace Group, said government prosecutors, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Morford, threw things at him and pressured him to lie to win Traficant's conviction.

"They said that nobody was going to support me in the administration and that they were making sure that you were out," Detore told Traficant (pictured, above) in response to questions. "They wanted me to lie."

Detore accused Morford of threatening him with a tax investigation if he did not cooperate, comparing a nine-hour meeting with Morford in June 2001 to a "Nazi interrogation" with Morford "yelling, screaming, throwing papers, throwing pencils."

Morford was one of three people recommended to be U.S. Attorney in Cleveland by Ohio's two Republican senators after the man they first recommended withdrew from consideration.

"Since Mr. Detore's testimony touched on Mr. Morford, it was my feeling that so the White House didn't get embarrassed about that later, it was so they could ask him about that," said House ethics committee member Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio.

A spokesman for the White House declined to comment Tuesday on the transcript or the consideration of Morford for the federal post.

LaTourette commended Detore for testifying, saying he found him to be a credible witness who raised serious questions about prosecutors' conduct. He cited those questions as the main reason he tried to persuade the House to wait until September to vote on Traficant's expulsion.

"When I was a prosecutor, people said all the time that I was mean to them. But I also think it's appropriate when such allegations are raised that someone look into it," LaTourette said Tuesday.

The House ethics committee also has forwarded a copy of Detore's testimony to the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates prosecutorial misconduct. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, asked the agency to investigate Detore's allegations.

Detore, who is accused by the government of funneling bribes from his company to Traficant, didn't testify during Traficant's trial. His remarks before the ethics panel were made without an attorney or a promise of immunity. No one backed up his claims and other members of the committee weren't impressed with the testimony.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Cleveland, said Morford "categorically denies all of Mr. Detore's accusations."

Traficant, a nine-term Democrat from Ohio, was ousted from Congress last week and sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison.

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