CLEVELAND – A former chief of staff for Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. testified Friday that the congressman coached him on what to tell a grand jury investigating allegations of corruption.
Paul Marcone, one of several ex-employees to testify in Traficant's racketeering and bribery trial, said the congressman pulled him into the hallway before talking because he feared his Washington office was bugged.
Marcone said Traficant told him to say that two employees who allegedly were paying kickbacks from their salaries were hard workers. Several former senior members of Traficant's staff testified this week that the staffers did very little work at the office.
"What I wanted him to tell me was to just go in there and tell the truth," Marcone said.
Traficant, who is representing himself even though he is not a lawyer, denies charges of tax falsification, racketeering and accepting gifts and favors for his political influence.
He could face up to 63 years in prison and expulsion from the House if convicted.
During cross-examination, Traficant did not challenge Marcone's testimony. After the trial adjourned, Traficant denied to reporters that he had coached his former employee.
Marcone appeared before the grand jury in April 2000.
On Friday, he testified that he and other staffers in early 1996 urged the Department of Transportation to reinstate a Youngstown, Ohio, paving company barred from federal contracts due to labor violations.
An employee of Prime Contractors has testified that at about the same time, the company paid him to do manual labor at Traficant's horse farm for six months.
Marcone also said that he pushed the Federal Aviation Administration to approve technology developed by a firm owned by a Youngstown businessman. Prosecutors contend that at the same time, the businessman was arranging for one of his employees to buy Traficant's dilapidated boat.
The trial, which began Feb. 4, is expected to last eight to 10 weeks.