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Federal marshals led former Ohio Democratic Congressman – and convicted felon – James Traficant away from the courthouse in handcuffs Tuesday.
An obviously-angry U.S. Judge Lesley Wells tossed the always defiant Traficant into the slammer for eight years (longer than prosecutors wanted), slapped him with a $150,000 fine and refused to even give him time to go home and settle his affairs.
Traficant, convicted of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion, was thrown out of Congress last week by a 420-1 vote. He left the courthouse vowing to run for Congress again from jail and predicting he would win.
Vintage Traficant. Smug, arrogant, defiant, unrepentant. No remorse. No apology. No mercy from the court.
“Traficant got the book thrown at him because he refused to play the game,” says legal scholar Sam Jenson. “Had he shown even a little contrition, he might have gotten a break.”
Word of Traficant’s sentence reverberated through the mostly-empty halls of the House of Representatives Tuesday (the House has adjourned for the month-long August recess). Some were shocked at the sentence but few had any sympathy for Traficant.
“He got what he deserved,” said one Hill staffer. “I feel sorry for his staff but not for him.”
Judge Wells told Traficant he violated the public trust when he sold his vote for contributions, demanded kickbacks from staff and lied about his activities.
“You’ve done a lot of good in your years in Congress,” she told him. “The good you have done does not excuse you of the crime you were convicted of.”
Traficant responded by saying the judge was part of the “witch hunt” that he always claimed was out to get him, a view shared by many of the voters of Youngstown, Ohio, who sent him to Congress for nine terms.
“I’d vote for him again,” says 64-year-old Mary Singleton of Youngstown. “The only thing he did wrong was refuse to play by the rules set down by the good ole boys in Washington. That’s what I liked about him.”
Polls show Traficant still has tremendous support in what used to be his district in Ohio (a district eliminated by party bosses when Congressional lines were redrawn after the 2000 census).
Which may say more about the voters of Youngstown, Ohio, than it does for the convicted felon who used to represent them in Congress.
Still, I don’t have any sympathy for Traficant or the fools who kept sending him to Congress.
My granddaddy once said that if you want sympathy, you should go find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.