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Traficant Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison

A federal judge Tuesday afternoon sentenced ousted former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, to eight years in prison and fined him $150,000 following his conviction on 10 counts of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. 

In handing out the sentence, U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells said Traficant seemed to believe that he was above the law and that he used her courtroom as a theater.  She added that he had no respect for government and lied in order to save himself.

"You've done a lot of good in your years in Congress ... the good you have done does not excuse you of the crime you were convicted of," she told the congressman.

Traficant tried to argue along the way.

"Why did you tie my hands behind my back?" he asked Wells as she sentenced him. Wells then ordered him to sit down.

Earlier in the proceeding, Wells rejected Traficant's argument that he should not be sentenced to prison because he had already been punished by expulsion from the House. 

Traficant, 61, argued that a prison sentence would represent double jeopardy — being punished twice for the same crime. 

But Wells sided with federal prosecutors who said that Traficant's expulsion "was not criminal punishment. The action was inherently political and non-judicial in nature." 

Traficant was denied bail in order to settle his affairs before reporting to prison. Wells, who said that Traficant was a flight risk, was immediately turned over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Traficant is appealing the sentence to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has continually argued that he is the victim of a government vendetta. 

Since his conviction in April, Traficant has filed a flurry of motions seeking to have his conviction overturned. On Monday, Wells dismissed Traficant's request for a new trial. 

After a raucous trial lasting about 2½ months, he was convicted April 11 on 10 counts of bribery, tax evasion and racketeering. 

He was found guilty of requiring staff members to do personal chores for him and kick back a portion of their paychecks and of accepting cash bribes and various favors from businessmen who were seeking his help in Washington. 

The House later voted 420-1 to strip him of his seat, making Traficant only the second member of Congress kicked out since the Civil War. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., who has been denied another term after being linked to murdered federal intern Chandra Levy, was the single vote in favor of keeping the nine-term representative.

Although he's not a lawyer, Traficant defended himself both before jurors and fellow lawmakers. He had done so successfully in 1983 when accused of racketeering for taking mob money while Mahoning County sheriff. 

Last week, Traficant filed motions arguing the testimony of Virginia business executive Richard Detore before the House ethics committee raised questions about the conduct of prosecutors. 

Detore, who is accused by the government of funneling bribes from his company to Traficant, didn't testify during Traficant's trial. Before the ethics committee, he said government prosecutors tried to pressure him into lying about Traficant so they could convict the congressman. 

Wells said Detore's testimony doesn't amount to new evidence because Traficant made a tape recording of Detore saying the same thing a year ago, and could have called him to testify as a defense witness. 

In the hallway leading into the courtroom Tuesday, Traficant talked at length with Leo Glaser, the juror in his corruption trial who later said he would not have voted to convict Traficant had he heard Detore's testimony at trial. 

During the trial and House hearings, Traficant mounted a loud, sometimes comic and frequently vulgar defense. 

Dressed in his trademark denim suits, bell-bottomed pants and battered cowboy boots, with a mop of unkempt gray hair, he argued that witnesses had lied under pressure from prosecutors. 

His lawyer acknowledged Tuesday that Traficant's gesticulations may have done more harm than good.

"I think he may have added a year and a half on and he may have lost his bond at the trial level," said Mark Colucci, who Traficant hired after realizing he may go to prison. "But also I think he's scored a lot of points with the voters."

Traficant has vowed to run from prison for re-election as an Independent.  He so far is doing well in polls in the redrawn 17th District in northeast Ohio against Democratic state Sen. Tim Ryan, Republican state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin and Independent Warren Davis, a former labor leader. 

The Youngstown-area district Traficant has represented since 1984 was eliminated in January in redistricting by Ohio's Republican-controlled Legislature. 

Fox News' Steve Brown and the Associated Press contributed to this report.