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Traficant jury still deliberating in trial of Ohio congressman

Traficant, who faces up to 63 years in prison if convicted, argued that the prosecution had no case.
Traficant, who faces up to 63 years in prison if convicted, argued that the prosecution had no case.  

From Kate Snow

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) -- A Cleveland jury Tuesday resumed deliberating the fate of Rep. James Traficant, a maverick nine-term Ohio Democrat accused of taking bribes for political favors and forcing his aides to clean horse stalls on his farm.

Shortly before the deliberations began in federal court Monday, Traficant -- who is representing himself -- gave a rambling, 90-minute closing argument in which he said he was the victim of a government vendetta and circumstantial evidence.

"You wouldn't bring this case on a dope dealer," he told the jurors.

Jurors deliberated for about three hours before recessing Monday. They reconvened at 9 a.m. EDT Tuesday.

Anthony Traficanti, an aide to Traficant who is no relation to the congressman, said Tuesday that his boss is "emotionally upbeat" as he awaits a verdict.

On Monday, the prosecution gave a succinct closing argument, saying that Traficant lived in a "different" world and that he deserved to be punished for the 10 felony counts of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion against him.

The disparate closings were a fitting end to the often raucous eight-week trial that featured sharp-witted one-liners from Traficant and, at one point, a courtroom outburst that resulted in him throwing boxes.

A jury in Cleveland, Ohio, is deliberating the case of U.S. Rep. James Traficant, who stands accused of bribery. CNN's Kate Snow reports (April 9)

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During Monday's proceeding, Traficant asked for forgiveness of the jury and judge on a couple of occasions.

"I've been a real pain in the ascot. If you were in the room when I threw boxes, I apologize," he said.

Traficant's closing argument more resembled a stream of conscious speech. He pointed out that several of the prosecution's 55 witnesses had made plea bargains.

"Do I blame them? They're trying to save their ass," Traficant told the jury.

Prosecutors noted that only five of the 55 had plea agreements.

Even without their testimony, said lead prosecutor Craig Morford, the case is rock solid.

But Traficant railed on prosecutors, accusing them of founding their case on hearsay and failing to find any of his fingerprints on documents and money introduced as evidence. He questioned why investigators had never bothered to catch him on video or audio tape surveillance.

He also accused the FBI of having a personal grudge against him.

Morford suggested it was no coincidence that Traficant congressional aides were made to work on his Youngstown, Ohio, farm and his houseboat in Washington, D.C. He said it was no coincidence that Traficant asked five different people to do construction on his farm after he did political favors for them.

"They were not legitimate transactions," Morford said. "The problem is, common sense doesn't exist in the world he just described to you. But it exists here."

Morford also said the fact there were no fingerprints from Traficant on any of the prosecutions' key evidence was no surprise.

He noted that paper is a poor medium for holding fingerprints and that investigators didn't find anyone's fingerprints on any of the documents.

Morford said prosecutors didn't bother to try to tape Traficant because his crimes were "historic" and he was already aware he was under investigation and would have played to the microphone.


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