Roll Call

            July 24, 2000

            Traficant Invokes Fifth Amendment 

            By Damon Chappie 

            Invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination,
            Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) is refusing to turn over a box of
            documents sought by federal prosecutors who are investigating
            corruption charges involving the lawmaker. 

            Prosecutors in Cleveland filed a sealed motion July 14 to compel
            Traficant to hand over documents that were subpoenaed by a
            grand jury in May after the Ohio lawmaker refused to give up
            the papers on the grounds that they might incriminate him. 

            The grand jury has been probing Traficant since January over
            allegations that he had received improper gifts -- in the form of
            work and other services performed on his farm -- over the past
            several years. Traficant's use of his official expense allowance
            has been examined by the grand jury. 

            Paul Marcone, Traficant's chief of staff, confirmed that
            Traficant notified prosecutors on July 3 that Traficant is
            invoking the Fifth Amendment on some documents from his
            Congressional office that the lawmaker contends are personal. 

            "The Congressman made the assertion that these are his
            personal documents and that the production of them is akin to
            testimony and he is invoking his protection under the Fifth
            Amendment," Marcone said. 

            At this point, Traficant is not claiming protection under the
            "speech or debate" clause of the Constitution, which generally
            protects Members of Congress from being questioned about
            their legislative activities. 

            Marcone said that the House general counsel's office had
            reviewed the documents under subpoena and pulled a number of
            them that related to legislative activity. 

            Marcone declined to describe the documents for which Traficant
            is invoking the Fifth Amendment. 

            "House rules consider all documents from a Congressional office
            to be a Member's personal documents. So, letters written by
            staff, memos, letters written by the Congressman to agencies,
            those are considered personal documents and the
            Congressman's not going to turn them over short of a court
            order to do so," Marcone said. 

            Traficant is acting as his own attorney and it was unclear
            whether he would be filing a response to the prosecutors' July
            14 motion. 

            Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards, citing grand jury secrecy
            rules, declined to comment. 

            A Fifth Amendment claim by a sitting Member is extremely rare,
            according to legal experts. 

            "You don't need all five fingers to count how many members of
            Congress have recently taken the Fifth," said Charles Tiefer, a
            former deputy general counsel for the House and a law
            professor at the University of Baltimore. 

            Justice Department guidelines generally restrain prosecutors
            from calling the targets of a criminal investigation before a
            grand jury where the Fifth Amendment would be invoked, Tiefer

            Members of Congress "are persons for purposes of the
            Constitution" and can claim the Fifth like anyone else, Tiefer

            A recent Supreme Court ruling may add a twist in the Traficant
            legal maneuverings. In June, the High Court overturned a
            conviction against former Justice Department official Webster
            Hubbell because former Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr had
            improperly used Hubbell's personal records that were obtained
            under a grant of immunity. 

            Last week, a grand jury indicted Arthur David Sugar, an Ohio
            contractor on obstruction of justice and perjury charges for
            allegedly covering up billing records and invoices related to work
            the contractor had performed on Traficant's farm. 

            While not naming Traficant, the indictment disclosed that a
            "public official" is under investigation for bribery or illegal
            gratuities violations, racketeering and tax evasion. Traficant has
            been identified as the official, according to people familiar with
            the case. 

            Following Sugar's indictment, Traficant issued a press release
            saying "Dave Sugar is a good man. The only crime he has
            committed is being a good friend of mine. If they want to hurt
            me, come and get me, and leave innocent people alone." 

            Traficant added that he will be "presenting evidence to the
            Congress to prove that the FBI has been on the mob's payroll
            and doing the bidding of the mob for the past 40 years -- right
            up until 1999. 

            "No matter what happens to me, the FBI will have to answer for
            labeling Youngstown a whorehouse," he said of his hometown. 

            House Republicans, who have been trying to get Traficant to
            switch parties, will be giving him a platform for his pet legislation
            on Thursday. The House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial
            and administrative law will hold a hearing on Traficant's
            legislation to create an independent agency to investigate
            allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. 

            A subcommittee aide confirmed that Traficant will be the leadoff
            witness before the panel chaired by Rep. George Gekas

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