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Judge says no to prosecutors

By Patricia Meade

Monday, October 8, 2001

The judge said the evidence doesn't have to be turned over now anyhow.
CLEVELAND -- Federal prosecutors would have given U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. certain evidence now if a judge ordered him to keep it to himself.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells, though, has denied the government's request to issue a protective order in the 17th District congressman's racketeering case. The judge filed her order late Friday.
Traficant motion: Traficant, in a motion filed July 20, asked for virtually all the evidence against him, some of which the government doesn't have to turn over until his Feb. 4 trial. The congressman faces charges of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion.
The government, in its response to that July motion, declined to turn over witness statements now before the witnesses testify at trial and called "nonsensical" some of Traficant's other requests.
In an effort to not cause any delays, however, the government said it was willing to turn over portions of certain grand jury transcripts, FBI interview forms and one witness statement.
The prosecutors -- Craig S. Morford, Bernard A. Smith and Matthew B. Kall -- would have turned the evidence over to Traficant had Judge Wells ordered him to not copy the documents or publicly disclose them to anyone, including the press.
Free speech: Judge Wells' order points out that the government's proposed protective order of the evidence would impose restraints on Traficant's right to free speech. The judge added that the government doesn't have to turn the material over now anyhow, but only has to give it to the congressman "in sufficient time to make use of it at trial."
Prosecutors have said the evidence will show that Traficant, 60, attempted to influence, obstruct and impede the investigation by trying to get his administrative counsel, Atty. R. Allen Sinclair, to destroy evidence and provide false testimony and information to a grand jury.
"Given this conduct, pretrial disclosure of the statements of potential witnesses would enable Congressman Traficant to further obstruct justice in this matter," the government has said.
The government alleges that each month, Traficant accepted envelopes stuffed with $2,500 that had been slipped under the door by a staffer at his Overhill Road office in Boardman.
Sinclair has been identified as the staffer who slipped the money under the door.
Sinclair has been cooperating with the government and has not been charged.