THE TRIALS OF TRAFICANT:
By James Ridgway de Szigethy
and Jurors In His Federal Trial
Public statements by embattled Congressman James Traficant suggest that Traficant and his associates have been conducting investigations into the backgrounds of the Judge and jurors who served in his recent Federal bribery trial. On July 15th Traficant faced his fourth trial as a public official when the Ohio Congressman appeared before a special session of the House Ethics Committee. During these hearings Traficant lashed out against Justice Lesley Brooks Wells, the Judge in his Federal trial, claiming that he had uncovered evidence that Wells was guilty of a Conflict of Interest; specifically, that Judge Wellsí husband was a partner in a law firm that represents the interests of a business owned by J. J. Cafaro, one of the Prosecution Witnesses who testified against Traficant. The very next day Traficant appeared on a live CSPAN telecast, denouncing the 12 jurors in his Federal trial, claiming they had "lied" about having little prior knowledge of him. Traficantís remark was in reaction to the 3 jurors who came forward to speak to the Media after the trial about their thoughts on this historic case.
Traficantís rantings have outraged at least one of the jurors who sat in judgement against him. Juror Jeri Zimmerman tells AmericanMafia.com that she is "disgusted" by Traficantís branding her, the 11 other jurors, and the 50 Prosecution Witnesses as liars. In regards to Traficantís trial before his fellow members of Congress, Zimmerman notes that Traficant "has finally gotten his wish Ė a jury of his peers!" One point of Appeal by Traficant is that his jury pool was chosen from the area surrounding Cleveland, the site of his Federal trial, rather than the area of Ohio that he represents in Congress. Thus, according to Traficantís reasoning, he did not receive a trial by a Ďjury of his peers.í
Prosecutors in Traficantís Federal trial originally petitioned Judge Wells to empanel an Ďanonymousí jury, which would keep secret from Traficant and his associates the identities of the jurors. Such requests are frequently made in the trials of members of the Mafia. Defendants in Mafia trials usually hire high-powered criminal attorneys to represent them, who utilize the services of crooked private detectives to compile information on jurors and prospective Prosecution witnesses. Such investigators resort to a variety of tactics to obtain such information, which includes making phone calls to family members and associates of the targeted individuals, especially those affected by Divorce, who may have an ax to grind. Such private detectives have also been known to pose as "free-lance investigative reporters" as a means of obtaining negative information on individuals, and they even utilize the time-honored trick of stealing a personís garbage, which reveals a lot about a person and what is going on inside the privacy of their home.
In Traficantís case, Prosecutors were concerned about his association with many members of the Mafia, including Charlie "The Crab" Carabbia, a Cleveland Mafia Family associate who contributed $163,000 in Mafia bribes to Traficant when Traficant first sought public office. Carabbia was murdered just days after disclosing to Traficant that he was blackmailing Traficantís friend Ed Flask, the son of a prominent Ohio politician, with "compromising photographs!" Once elected Congressman, Traficant continued his association with Mafia figures, placing at least one on the payroll of his Congressional staff.
Federal Prosecutors were also troubled by a murder plot uncovered against a woman who was set to testify against Traficant before the Grand Jury investigating the Mafia in Ohio, Sandra Ferrante, an employee on Traficantís horse farm. Before Traficantís indictments, agents of the FBI had taken Ferrante into protective custody, after playing for her secretly recorded tapes of another Traficant horse farm employee, Clarence Broad, whom the tapes revealed sought to hire a hitman to murder Ferrante. Broad later pleaded guilty to murder solicitation and is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence. Absent conclusive evidence Traficant was involved in this murder plot, Judge Wells ruled against the governmentís motion to empanel an anonymous jury.
As a member of Congress, James Traficant has a demonstrated history of utilizing the services of a variety of private detectives who have been involved in highly controversial investigations. In 1989 Congressman Traficant called a press conference, at which he revealed his conspiracy theory which purported that the CIA was responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in December, 1988, killing 270 people. Among those associates of Traficant pursuing this theory was Juval Aviv, a private detective who had worked as an investigator for the Lyndon LaRouche organization. Aviv also claimed to have worked as a spy for Israeli Intelligence, a claim the Israeli government has emphatically denied. In 1996 Aviv was indicted on Federal fraud charges in New York unrelated to the Pan Am case. Aviv then hired as his criminal attorney Gerald Shargel, who is best known for defending a variety of Mafia defendants, including John Gotti and his son John "Junior" Gotti. Criminal attorney Shargel won an acquittal for Aviv.
Upon Avivís indictment Congressman Traficant found a replacement in Boris de Korczak, a retired "superspy" from Poland who, like Aviv, immigrated to America to become a private investigator. Boris is best known for the lawsuit he filed in 1996 against the CIA claiming he was owed money from an alleged recruitment in the 1970s as a double agent against the KGB. At a 1979 party at the Soviet Embassy in Denmark, Boris claims, his Ďcoverí was blown by a drunken U. S. Embassy official, resulting in a shoot-out with the KGB during a wild car chase through the streets of Copenhagen. Boris also swears that once he had entered the United States, his CIA case officer demanded a bribe of Medieval Russian icons worth $300,000 in exchange for help obtaining the Pension he claims he was owed. Boris alleges he turned over the bribe, only to be shot in the kidney a few months later by an unknown assailant armed with a pellet gun. The CIA denied Borisí claims he was owed monetary compensation and also denied any of its employees shot Boris with a pellet gun. Borisí case was dismissed in Federal Court and the decision was upheld on Appeal. In January 1998, Traficant introduced into Congress a bill that would compel the CIA to compensate Boris. This bill was never passed.
Traficantís conspiracy theory regarding Pan Am 103 was eventually disproven and an agent for Libyan dictator Muamar Qadafy was convicted for planting the bomb aboard the airplane. By the time of this conviction, the families and friends of the victims of this terrorist attack had long since disregarded the claims of Congressman Traficant and his investigators in regards to this case. The anger these survivors feel towards Traficant and his associates is expressed candidly by Susan and Daniel Cohen in their book: ĎPan Am 103: The Bombing, the Betrayals, and a Bereaved Familyís Search for Justice.í The Cohenís daughter Theodora was one of 35 Syracuse University college students aboard Flight 103.
The debacle over Traficantís Pan Am conspiracy theory did not stop the Congressman and his private detectives from pursuing other conspiracy theories. In 1996 Traficant, Boris de Korczak, and their associates launched an investigation into the murder of a woman in Gwinnett County, Georgia, for which a local cop, Mike Chapel, was convicted. Traficant and his team deduced that Chapel had been framed by a vast conspiracy involving drug dealers and crooked authorities. These efforts proved without merit, as Chapel was not granted a new trial. Furious with the Ohio Congressmanís interjection into this event was Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter. Stated Porter to the local Media about Traficant and his private investigators: "They are not prepared to discuss their evidence with the press, and they havenít come to me with information, and they havenít made it known to the police department. All of that tells me they donít know what they are talking about. This tells me they are just trying to get some publicity out of the case for their own reasons."
One Traficant associate involved in the Mike Chapel case was also among those private detectives involved in another controversial investigation, the case of the 1995 murder of Philadelphia citizen Kimberly Ernest. This team of private investigators concluded that Ms. Ernest was the victim of a serial killer whom they claimed was John Lambert, the son of a prominent Philadelphia family. Lambert was said to be protected from prosecution by a vast conspiracy, which included officials in City Hall and in law enforcement, including a decorated cop, Tom Augustine, who was said to be ĎMobbed-up.í Incredibly, both State and Federal authorities investigated these allegations, with Detective Augustine living under a cloud of suspicion for many months. Eventually, Augustine was cleared of any wrongdoing. Such vindication came too late for young Lambert, who killed himself with a drug overdose. His DNA was then taken by the authorities, which proved conclusively he was not involved in any of the murders he was falsely accused of.
Despite this long history of espousing failed conspiracy theories, Congressman Traficant was not about to change his tactics once on trial before the House Ethics Committee. Traficant began his defense reiterating allegations he made in August 2000 against then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Traficant had appeared on the Fox News talk Show Hannity & Colmes alleging that Reno was guilty of Treason and was ĎMobbed-up.í Specifically, Traficant claimed the Mafia was blackmailing Reno through possession of a secretly-recorded videotape in which Reno was seen having sex with a ĎMobbed-upí callgirl and that the Mafia used this tape to prevent Reno from appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate the illegal transfer of secret nuclear and missile technology to the government of Communist China.
Traficant continued his tirade before the Ethics Committee with his familiar theme of anti-government rhetoric, at one point shouting out the following: "Waco! . . . Ruby Ridge! . . . Traficant!" The Congressman then paused for dramatic effect, as if to let the audience he was playing to, the members of Congress, the reporters sitting behind him, and, most importantly, the many citizens around the country watching live on television, to fully absorb the import of what he had just declared.
The next day, Traficant appeared on a CSPAN2 interview, during which he again claimed that all 50 Prosecution witnesses against him had lied, and Traficant again attacked Judge Wells for the alleged Conflict of Interest. The Congressman then went after the jurors in his trial: "These 12 jurors said they knew nothing of me and basically I know they lied about that!"
By the end of the day, Traficant was able to pull one ace out of his sleeve, when Richard Detore, under indictment for bribing Traficant, made a surprise appearance before the Ethics Committee. Detore told the Committee that the Prosecutor in the Traficant case, Craig Morford, had threatened him and urged him to lie about Traficant or face prosecution himself. Detore claimed that it was clear to him that Morford was acting under pressure from his boss, Attorney General Janet Reno. However, when the Ethics Committee returned from a recess, one Congressman pointed out that the meeting between Morford and Detore had occurred in June 2001, many months after Janet Reno had left office. Despite this obvious challenge to Detoreís credibility, his testimony won over one juror in the Traficant trial, according to a report by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Although expected to have little impact on Traficantís legal case, the Congressman will undoubtedly use this development to his advantage in the Court of public opinion.
Perhaps most interesting regarding Detoreís testimony were his allegations regarding his employer J. J. Cafaro and his daughter Capri, in regards to possible illegal gifts given to Senator Robert Torricelli, the embattled politician who will soon face his own trial before the Senate Ethics Committee.
Despite Detoreís performance, the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the House expel Traficant from Congress. If this occurs, it will be only the second time since the Civil War that a member of Congress has been expelled for misconduct.
Expulsion from Congress, however, is the least of James Traficantís worries; on July 30 Traficant must face Judge Wells Ė the same Judge he has blasted on national television Ė who will sentence Traficant for all 10 Counts the jury convicted him on; bribery, income tax evasion, and racketeering.
James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at JAMESDE@prodigy.net.
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