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TRAFICANT CASE Prosecution tosses some disputed documents

By Patricia Meade

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The decision to withdraw 100 papers was made to avoid delays, the prosecution said.
CLEVELAND -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. asked for a mile, and prosecutors met him halfway.
In a 15-page response filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the government agreed to not use certain documents the 17th District congressman says are covered by the speech or debate clause in the Constitution. The clause gives members immunity from legal reprisal for what they say on the House floor or introduce into the Congressional Record.
Traficant, a nonlawyer representing himself, faces trial Feb. 4. His 10-count indictment includes charges that he accepted cash, goods and services in return for using his influence.
In July, the government filed 233 documents it intended to use at trial that deal with J.J. Cafaro of the mall development family and Bernard J. Bucheit, retired from the now-defunct Bucheit International, a construction company.
The papers include the 60-year-old congressman's correspondence with government officials, press releases, memos and so forth on behalf of Cafaro and Bucheit.
Traficant asked Judge Lesley Brooks Wells to suppress all the papers -- based on the speech or debate clause. After being ordered to provide specific reasons for each document, he narrowed his objections while still maintaining that all of the documents should be exempt.
The government said adopting Traficant's interpretation -- that everything out of his office should be excluded -- "would make members of Congress super citizens, immune from criminal responsibility, a result that the Supreme Court has rejected."
Action: Even though Traficant's motions listed a blanket objection only and failed to quote appropriate law, the government relented and withdrew about 100 documents that deal with Cafaro.
Prosecutors Craig S. Morford, Bernard A. Smith and Matthew B. Kall also have agreed to redact portions of about 115 other papers related to Cafaro that may represent potentially privileged items.
The prosecutors said their decision is based on "judicial economy and to avoid unnecessary delay." A magistrate judge will review the documents and make a recommendation to Judge Wells.
Documents: The government, in its response, noted that it turned over to Traficant 14 documents it received from the U.S. State Department that relate to Bucheit.
Traficant is accused of accepting things of value from Cafaro, who has pleaded guilty, and Bucheit, who has not been charged.
Cafaro's plea agreement states that he gave Traficant $13,000 in cash and paid more than $20,000 for repairs to the congressman's houseboat in Washington, D.C.
Cafaro's lawyer has said that the Liberty man "engaged in transactions with Traficant hoping and expecting" that the congressman would continue to use his office to support the Federal Aviation Administration laser technology developed by Cafaro's USAerospace Group, based in Manassas, Va.
At the time, in 1998, Traficant served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation.
Bucheit, the government said, provided Traficant with labor and materials in 1993 to construct an addition and deck at the congressman's horse farm in Greenford. In return, prosecutors contend that Traficant used his position to help Bucheit recoup several million dollars from a Saudi Arabian prince.