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Democrat, Ohio (1985-2002)
Update Sept. 2, 2009: Jimbo Traficant, now 68 years old, was released from federal prison after serving 8 years. His homecoming was boisterous, with 1,200 cheering supporters waiting to see him. Traficant compared his imprisonment to that of Nelson Mandela, and promised that he would go after the government that "cheated" to put him behind bars for racketeering and bribery. He cut off his prison pony tail, but kept a partial toupee.
The Other Expelled BadBoy is Ozzie Myers
The Honorable James Traficant, blue collar defender of the little guy, who was, let us be charitable, sartorially challenged (old gabardine or corduroy suits, orange and yellow stretch pants), often having a bad hair day, got into big time trouble in 2002.
Traficant was the 18th sitting member of Congress who stood for trial in the past 25 years. He's also the only one who refused to hire a lawyer. He defended himself against 10 felony counts of bribery and corruption. Traficant's only experience as a lawyer (which he isn't) was when he defended himself in 1980s on charges of tax evasion and taking $163,000 in bribes while he was county sheriff.
As sheriff of Mahong County, Ohio, in the early 1980s, Traficant was caught on tape accepting bribes from mobsters who wanted him to look the other way while they controlled prostitution, gambling, and drug trafficking. Traficant's defense: he was running his own sting operation against the mob. The good citizens on the jury bought the story, and Traficant was found not guilty.
Then in 1987, a U.S. Tax Court ruled that Traficant owed more than $100,000 in back taxes for the bribes he took as sheriff. He represented himself in that case, too. The federal government garnisheed his Congressional wages for not paying taxes on the bribe money. (Could someone please explain this to me--paying taxes on bribes?)
A federal jury convicted Traficant in April 2002 of ten counts of bribery, racketeering, and corruption. Then the House Ethics Committee conducted its own investigation, voting unanimously in July to expel Traficant and found him guilty of nine counts of violating government ethics rules. They found that Traficant had taken a $2,500-a-month kickback from one of his congressional employees and then asked the staffer to destroy evidence sought by prosecutors. Traficant also accepted money and gratuities from an aerospace company executive who sought his help getting government certification. Traficant was also charged with using his official influence to steer government business to two contractors who had done work on his horse farm in lieu of payments for their work. Check out the Committee report on Traficant's misdeeds.
The Expulsion. On July 25, 2002, for the second time since the Civil War, the House of Representatives expelled a member. Last time they did that was in 1980, kicking out the Honorable Ozzie Myers. Trivia note: the vote for expulsion was 420-1 (Traficant didn't vote). Who was that lone dissenter? The Honorable Gary Condit.
The House didn't wait for the sentencing of Traficant, which came a week after they booted him out. Traficant was sentenced to eight years in prison and a $150,000 fine during a three-hour hearing, which found him screaming, swearing, and spouting government conspiracy theories. Ninety minutes into the hearing, Traficant fired his lawyer, verbally attacked the prosecutor and the judge. "In street terms, you screwed me," Traficant yelled at the judge. "And I didn't think you would do that to me." [For other pearls of wisdom, check the Quote Board].
Judge Lesley Wells had enough: "At every opportunity, you proclaimed you are the No. 1 victim in the entire country. Really. You were howling that you were going to fight like a junkyard dog in the eye of a hurricane. Well . . . to protect a junkyard full of deceit and corruption and greed, you fought like a junkyard dog."
In the end, the deputy marshals walked up behind Traficant. He extended his arms behind him for the handcuffs. But he couldn't get his wrists close enough together. The marshals had to use two handcuffs, manacled Traficant, down the elevator, to the waiting jail cell.
Traficant became a member of the Congressional Prison Caucus.
Here's another deep trivia point: Traficant was the only House member without a committee assignment. House Democrats denied him a seat after he voted for Republican Dennis Hastert for Speaker.
I'll be back! Traficant vowed to run for re-election, from prison. Apparently there's no law to stop him from doing so, but in the end the good people of his district had had it. He lost.
Most of us never knew. That was a rug (or is it a muskrat) on top of Traficant's head! That alone should be worth at least six months in the can.
For more on Traficant and his expulsion from Congress, click on YourCongress.com.
Sources: Milan Simonich, "Traficant Tackles Corruption Charges Head-On," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 3, 2002, A1; John Caniglia, "Traficant Gets 8 Years," Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 31, 2002, A1; Mary Jacoby, "House Kicks Out James Traficant," St. Petersburg Times, July 25, 2002, A1. Mary Jordan, "The Man, the Rug, and the Red Carpet," Washington Post, Sept. 7, 2009.