Thursday, July 25, 2002 at 5:16 PM
Youngstown area congressman James Traficant has been expelled from the House of Representatives for the same crimes he was convicted of committing in April. Congress voted 420 to 1 to banish Traficant from office immediately. Back in his home district, residents seemed apathetic to the proceedings, and split on the House action. 90.3 WCPN's Janet Babin has our story.
Janet Babin: Before the historic vote, a handful of Traficant supporters stationed themselves in front of Youngstown's Federal Courthouse, lit a candle, and rang a bell. Reverend Werner Lange lead the tiny, impromptu protest.
While the House expulsion hearings were turned on at the MVR club on Walnut Street, most patrons watched halfheartedly, preferring instead to throw bocci balls in the restaurant's two outdoor courts.
Although Traficant had promised quite a show, including a Michael Jackson-style moonwalk performance, Traficant appeared subdued in speech and style. The aging cowboy left his denim at home, sporting a formal black suit, and thin tie. He was halted for using profanity only once - to the end, the nine-term lawmaker maintained his innocence, saying he was convicted of 10 bribery corruption and racketeering counts because the government has a vendetta against him.
During Traficant's speech, MVR patrons stopped their bocci ball games, and lined up at an outdoor bar to watch the television, which had been turned up.
House members voted 420 to 1 to expel Traficant - the lone dissenting vote came from California Congressman Gary Condit, who lost his renomination bid in the Chandra Levy scandal. Before the vote, Traficant's friend and fellow Ohio Congressman Steven LaTourette asked his colleagues to delay the decision until September. LaTourette told members that two of the jurors who convicted Traficant in April of bribery and tax evasion have second thoughts after listening to a witness testify at Traficant's House Ethics Committee hearing. The witness, Aerospace Executive Richard Detore, told the committee that federal prosecutors pressured him to implicate Traficant at his trial.
The Mahoning Valley have been lacking a voice in Washington since Traficant announced he was under investigation more than a year and a half ago. Now that he's officially out of congress, Governor Bob Taft could set a date for a special election to fill the seat till the end of the year. Traficant is running as an independent in the November general election.