CLEVELAND, Ohio – A woman who lived at Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s horse farm for 17 years testified Monday in his corruption trial that the FBI led her to believe he was plotting to have her killed.
Sandy Ferrante, testifying for Traficant, said the FBI played for her an audio tape in which a worker at the farm discusses a plot to kill her at Traficant's direction. She said Traficant's voice was not on the tape.
Ferrante said she was taken into protective custody by the FBI and later testified before a grand jury investigating the congressman, who is not a lawyer and is representing himself.
Traficant faces 10 charges, including filing false tax returns, accepting gifts and free labor from businessmen for his political help, and taking cash kickbacks and free labor from staff members. The labor includes work done at the farm.
He has not been charged in an alleged plot to have Ferrante killed. Ferrante said she later apologized to Traficant for public statements she made about the case.
"I felt used by the FBI," she said.
When Traficant asked if she feared him, Ferrante answered, "Now, there is a shadow of a doubt. I don't know if I can fully trust you."
Ferrante also testified that the farm belongs to Traficant's father. Traficant has suggested throughout the trial that since he does not own the farm, work done there cannot be construed as a gift to him.
Traficant faces up to 63 years in prison if convicted of all charges. He probably would receive a much shorter sentence because of federal sentencing guidelines.
Earlier Monday, Traficant asked for permission to bring a 600-pound welding machine into court as evidence. It was not clear why Traficant wants to use the machine.
Prosecutors have said a businessman bought the machine for Traficant. They objected to allowing the machine as evidence because they wanted time to inspect it.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells briefly recessed the trial to see if the machine could be brought into the courthouse. It had not arrived by midday.
The government presented 55 witnesses over six weeks who testified to a string of bribes and favors given to the congressman in exchange for his assistance. The government evidence included bank records showing large cash deposits to Traficant's accounts and a briefcase full of cash that one witness said Traficant asked him to hide.