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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK
US congressman jailed
James Traficant
Traficant: Raked in bribes from businesses
A maverick American congressman, expelled from the House of Representatives after being convicted of corruption, has been jailed for eight years.

The judge in Cleveland, Ohio, gave James Traficant, 61, a longer sentence than the prosecution had sought, saying he had no respect for the government.

Traficant: Colourful ex-congressman
She also said Traficant had lied to distract attention from the charges of accepting bribes and inducements.

She rejected his argument that his expulsion from the House meant he had been punished enough.

Judge Lesley Wells said the expulsion was political and not criminal punishment.

"You have done a lot of good in your years in Congress... the good you have done does not excuse you of the crime," she said.

Traficant - first elected to Congress in 1984 - was convicted on 11 April of running his congressional office as a racketeering enterprise.

'Hands tied'

The charges included taking kickbacks from constituents and his own employees, bribery and tax evasion.

Prosecutors said he raked in bribes from businesses and made some of his staff return part of their salary. They said he also forced aides to work on his family farm and a boat.

Traficant claimed the FBI had been out to get him ever since the 1980s, when he successfully defended himself against allegations of corruption.

Traficant, who defended himself, also claimed that federal prosecutors held back witnesses who could have testified on his behalf.

'Above the law'

"Why did you tie my hands behind my back?" he asked the judge as he was sentenced.

Assistant US Attorney Craig Morford said after the case that the judge "gave him (Traficant) a strong sentence that sends a strong message".

In court, Mr Morford said Traficant had demonstrated "an arrogance that said 'I am above the law'."

Traficant has already said he will appeal against whatever sentence is imposed.

His sentencing came a week after the House expelled him by a vote of 420-1, only the second time since the Civil War that it has taken such action.

During his trial and the ethics hearings against him, Traficant said he would run for a tenth term in November's elections as an independent - even if he had to do so from a prison cell.

For more than two decades Traficant brought a certain colour to Congress, both in terms of his fashion sense and language.

His maverick views have remained consistent throughout his career, so too his hairstyle, which is reminiscent of a greying Elvis Presley.

In court, often dressed in his trademark denim suits, bell-bottom pants and battered cowboy boots, with a mop of unkempt grey hair, he argued that witnesses had lied under pressure from prosecutors.

See also:

25 Jul 02 | Americas
12 Apr 02 | Americas
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