Invokes Fifth Amendment
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
declined to describe the documents for which Traficant
is invoking the Fifth Amendment.
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.
is acting as his own attorney and it was unclear
whether he would be filing a response to the prosecutors' July
U.S. Attorney Bill Edwards, citing grand jury secrecy
rules, declined to comment.
Fifth Amendment claim by a sitting Member is extremely rare,
according to legal experts.
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.
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
of Congress "are persons for purposes of the
Constitution" and can claim the Fifth like anyone else, Tiefer
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
matter what happens to me, the FBI will have to answer for
labeling Youngstown a whorehouse," he said of his hometown.
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.
subcommittee aide confirmed that Traficant will be the leadoff
witness before the panel chaired by Rep. George Gekas
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