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Published: Saturday, 11/23/2002

Toledoan to represent Traficant in appeal of federal convictions

Toledo attorney Richard Kerger said yesterday that he will represent expelled Youngstown congressman James Traficant, Jr., in his appeal of federal bribery and tax evasion convictions.

Mr. Kerger said he was hired by Traficant after being approached by a mutual acquaintance. “He's a very engaging fellow,” Mr. Kerger said. “He's subdued now, but he's been in prison for awhile.”

Traficant, 61, was convicted in April on 10 counts that included bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. He is serving an eight-year sentence in a federal prison in White Deer, Pa. The U.S. House of Representatives expelled him in July.

Mr. Kerger said Traficant's conviction will be challenged in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

“The thing that troubles me most is if the process appears to be unfair,” he said. “You get convictions that shouldn't happen. In this instance, it appears the process may not have been fair for a couple of reasons.”

He said the jury for Traficant's trial was pulled from the Cleveland area rather than the counties around Youngstown, which could be an issue for appeal.

Mr. Kerger said another could be whether the combination of Traficant's expulsion from Congress and his prison sentence constituted double jeopardy. He said Congress essentially acted as a court when its ethics committee held hearings and expelled Traficant. After the expulsion, he was sentenced on the criminal convictions, which Mr. Kerger said amounted to a second penalty for the same crimes.

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