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Justice May Probe Allegation That Witness Was Pressured to Lie in Traficant Trial

The Justice Department was asked Monday to investigate allegations that a federal prosecutor asked a witness to lie in the bribery and kickbacks trial of convicted Rep. James Traficant.

Richard Detore, former chief operating officer of U.S. Aerospace Group, last week told the House Ethics Committee that Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Morford in Cleveland, on orders from former Attorney General Janet Reno, pressured him to lie to win Traficant's conviction.

The committee last week voted unanimously to recommend that the full House expel Traficant, D-Ohio, on ethics violations, paralleling his criminal court convictions last April in Cleveland. The House is expected to vote this week on whether to expel the nine-term congressman.

Rep. Ted Strickland, another Ohio Democrat, asked the Justice Department to investigate Detore's allegation after watching much of the ethics panel's hearing last week on Traficant.

Strickland described Detore, who was indicted on charges of giving Traficant illegal gratuities, as "a very effective witness" and said his descriptions of prosecutors' actions concerned him.

"He made very serious allegations and if the government did conduct themselves the way he described, there is a very serious problem that needs to be resolved," Strickland said.

Detore testified before the ethics panel without an attorney or a promise of immunity. No one else backed up his claims and Morford has denied them.

"I'm here strictly against the advice of counsel, against the advice of physicians, but I'd rather go down telling the truth than be shuttered by lies," Detore told the House committee.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Cleveland declined to comment Monday on Strickland's request.

Traficant was convicted in federal court in Cleveland on 10 counts of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.