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Traficant jury deliberations enter fourth day

U.S. Rep. James Traficant Jr., D-Ohio, awaits the jury verdict in his federal corruption trial.
U.S. Rep. James Traficant Jr., D-Ohio, awaits the jury verdict in his federal corruption trial.  

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) -- The jury in the corruption trial of Rep. James Traficant Jr. will resume deliberations Thursday, four days after the maverick Ohio Democrat rebutted accusations in closing arguments that he took bribes and forced aides to clean horse stalls on his farm.

Traficant, 60, now in his ninth congressional term, was indicted in May 2001 on 10 felony counts of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. He faces up to 63 years in a federal prison if convicted on all counts and could be expelled from the House of Representatives.

After calling the continuing deliberations "a nightmare," Anthony Traficanti, one of the representative's aides, said Traficant remained positive Wednesday after the jury went home for the day.

"He's got an energy source which is unknown, and he's upbeat," said Traficanti, no relation to the congressman. "He doesn't seem depressed about it."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Morford, the lead prosecutor, said he was anxious but not surprised that the jury is taking so long because of the complexity of the case.

Second time indicted on bribery charges

Although he is not a lawyer, the former sheriff of Mahoning County, Ohio, represented himself throughout his eight-week trial.

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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Indictment: U.S. v.Traficant  (FindLaw document, PDF format)

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The federal indictment says Traficant accepted gifts and favors from several businessmen in his district, including a convicted felon, in return for interceding on their behalf with federal and state agencies.

He also is accused of using employees from his office to perform work on his farm and boat as well as requiring them to return a portion of their salaries to him each month.

The indictment alleges that staff workers baled hay, maintained horse stalls and performed other chores at Traficant's farm in Youngstown. In addition, he is accused of underreporting income on his tax returns and asking employees to destroy evidence and provide false testimony after he became aware he was being investigated.

In 1983, while a county sheriff, Traficant was brought up on federal bribery charges. During that trial, he also represented himself and was acquitted. Traficant said federal prosecutors are targeting him because he defeated them in court.

Traficant, who represents the 17th Congressional District, has accused the prosecution and FBI of having vendettas against him.

He said prosecutors based their case on hearsay, failing to find any of his fingerprints on documents and money introduced as evidence. He also questioned why investigators never bothered to catch him on video or audio tape surveillance.

Admittedly 'a real pain in the ascot'

With his district eliminated this year, Traficant has said he will run for re-election as an independent in a neighboring district.

He angered members of his own party this year when he crossed over to vote for Republican Dennis Hastert as House speaker. He was forced out of the Democratic Caucus and lost his committee assignments.

The congressman is known for making colorful speeches on the House floor, many of which he ends with, "Beam me up." His Web site features Traficant swinging a 2-by-4 emblazoned with the phrase, "Bangin' away in D.C."

Befitting his reputation, the often-raucous trial featured sharp one-liners from Traficant and, at one point, a courtroom outburst during which the congressman threw boxes.

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

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

The charges against Traficant stem from a lengthy federal investigation into public corruption and organized crime that also has ensnared the former director of his district office and one of his former advisers.


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