CLEVELAND – U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. on Friday rested his case without taking the stand to defend himself against corruption charges.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells scheduled closing arguments to start Monday after she denied Traficant's motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds that she violated his constitutional rights several times during the nine-week trial.
"You have failed to allow me to defend myself," said Traficant, who is representing himself even though he is not a lawyer.
Traficant, 60, is accused of taking kickbacks from staff members, accepting gifts and free labor from businessmen for his political help and filing false tax returns.
He faces up to 63 years in prison if convicted of all 10 counts. However, he probably would receive a much shorter sentence because of federal sentencing guidelines.
Traficant reiterated his complaint about the jury pool being drawn from beyond the borders of his Youngstown district.
"You have poisoned the jury pool," Traficant also told Wells, adding it was because she had asked him in front of the jury whether he would testify.
He said he would testify in his own defense only if Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Morford took the stand to testify about allegations Traficant wants to make about misconduct by prosecutors.
Wells dismissed jurors Friday morning after she read legal instructions, including descriptions of the charges, for 1 1/2 hours. She told jurors they were to consider only evidence presented by witnesses and not comments or objections made by Traficant or prosecutors.
Traficant's defense lasted two weeks, following about six weeks of witnesses presented by prosecutors.
On Thursday, Traficant had a small victory in court when Wells allowed him to enter into evidence an FBI report stating the congressman's fingerprints were not found on any evidence in the case. Traficant said the FBI report "speaks volumes" because it shows "an exhaustive attempt to corroborate words with physical evidence, and they failed."
The congressman also faced a setback Thursday when a witness he called supported prosecutors' allegation that a staff member worked at his farm during office hours.
Betty Manente, who has headed Traficant's Trumbull County district office for 17 years, testified that Charles Buccella, another staff member, was frequently out of the office and told her he was working at Traficant's farm.
Also on Thursday, Traficant flew into a rage and threw a box of documents off his table when Wells again barred the testimony of a private investigator he had hired. It was the second time Traficant had tried to call Fred Hudach to testify about alleged flaws in the FBI's investigation of the congressman.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life. You are denying me a fair trial," he told Wells.