This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, August 21, 2002. Click here to order the entire transcript of the show.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES TRAFICANT (D), FORMER OHIO CONGRESSMAN: Pack my bags! I'm not going to admit to crimes that I did not do, had no intent to ever commit a crime, and will do the time. And expect a long time to try and shut me up! But let me tell you something. There will be some smoking gun that will come out before it's over in the Traficant case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Many turned against him, his colleagues expelled him, and his peers sent him to jail. But she never left his side. She's Tish to her friends, but Mrs. Traficant to the rest of the world. And her flamboyant congressman-turned-convict is doing eight years behind bars.
Today I sat down with Tish and her attorney for a Fox exclusive, and I asked her how did she feel when she heard her husband's sentence.
PATRICIA TRAFICANT, WIFE OF FORMER CONGRESSMAN JAMES TRAFICANT: I couldn't believe it. But he told me that ahead of time. Everyone was telling me three to five years. He said, "No, she is going to put time on me. She's going to put years on me."
VAN SUSTEREN: How did he take that?
P. TRAFICANT: He took it in stride. He just said, "This is -- this is what's happening to me."
We've been preparing for this for 20 years. If I tell you that, you might think I'm crazy. But 20 years, I have been preparing myself that he might be imprisoned at a time, sometime in our life. But, when it had happened, it was awful. It was just like my breath was sucked away from me.
But he said to me, "It will be a long time." That morning be -- the morning when the jury came in, he called me that morning. He said, "They've come in -- they'll come in with guilty, and, you know, I will be sentenced for a long time." He said, "I know this."
VAN SUSTEREN: And his mood was what?
P. TRAFICANT: "I'm worried about you. Don't worry about me. It's OK."
VAN SUSTEREN: Is that an act, do you think, though? I mean...
P. TRAFICANT: No. Oh, no.
VAN SUSTEREN: You don't think...
P. TRAFICANT: You have to know him. You have to really know him. People that are in our home -- they just -- it's like congressman was what he did. It was not who he was. That's the only way I can explain it to you. He's funny, loving, very affectionate, welcomed anyone into the home.
VAN SUSTEREN: So he's not -- is he -- so he's not a broken man? Is that what the...
P. TRAFICANT: No, no.
VAN SUSTEREN: No.
P. TRAFICANT: No no. He's not broken. Not at all.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think he had so many people who didn't like him in Congress?
P. TRAFICANT: I never found any when I would go down there. I think...
VAN SUSTEREN: But they're not going to say anything to the wife.
P. TRAFICANT: Right. You're right.
VAN SUSTEREN: You're not going to say anything to the wife.
P. TRAFICANT: I've had several contact me since. They -- they're -- they feel awful. They more or less had to do what they had to do.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, people said -- I mean, members of Congress have called you?
P. TRAFICANT: I've spoken with members of Congress, yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you angry with any of them in particular?
P. TRAFICANT: No. Not at all, no. No.
VAN SUSTEREN: You accepted their vote to expel him?
P. TRAFICANT: Right. I was very proud of him that night, standing there facing those individuals. He knew his fate. We all did. But not to know the situation, the stories, not to listen to any of the tapes that he had -- I was really appalled when he was before the Ethics Committee. He gave them all the tapes to listen to. They didn't listen to them.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who disappoints you the most in Congress?
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, I'm not saying.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you -- but you have some...
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, certainly. Yes, I do. Yes, I do.
VAN SUSTEREN: And you think they were dishonest to your husband.
P. TRAFICANT: Yes. Maybe -- I didn't know if that -- the "dishonest" word I'm not comfortable with. I didn't like some of their action behind the scene.
VAN SUSTEREN: The jury convicted him. I mean...
P. TRAFICANT: How could you not?
VAN SUSTEREN: I feel that...
P. TRAFICANT: How could you not?
VAN SUSTEREN: In...
P. TRAFICANT: There was no -- he wasn't allowed to bring any evidence forward.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you don't harbor any feel -- bad feelings toward the jurors?
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, no. No. How could they not? I mean, when you listened to the evidence against him, it was preposterous, and they didn't know our area. They did not know these businessmen were always in trouble.
VAN SUSTEREN: And he wasn't even tried in your area?
P. TRAFICANT: No.
HEIDI HAHNI WOLFF, MRS. TRAFICANT'S ATTORNEY: That's another basis of appeal that we're looking at under the Sixth Amendment. I mean, it says that you're supposed to be tried before a jury of your peers within the district from where you come from, and there's issues regarding the pooling -- the jury pooling in the federal system in our district that is one avenue we're looking at for a basis of appeal.
He really never got to present his case, and that's the sad thing about it.
I have my opinions as far as should he have had counsel. Yes, absolutely.
VAN SUSTEREN: Yeah, what was with that, Tish? Why didn't he get a lawyer? I mean, he won the first time when he represented himself against all odds, but this time...
P. TRAFICANT: He feared -- he didn't trust anyone.
VAN SUSTEREN: Not lawyers?
P. TRAFICANT: No. He was -- he just didn't trust them because...
VAN SUSTEREN: Is he a know-it-all that way, though? I mean...
P. TRAFICANT: No.
VAN SUSTEREN: No? He's not?
P. TRAFICANT: He had lawyers assisting him, telling him what to do, or, you know, helping him with issues, and what was the law. He did have some input, but he was so fearful of being sold down the river by the attorneys.
And you have to understand our background and what happened to us, how many people said they would help us and then turned against us. It was one after another after another.
VAN SUSTEREN: He -- the -- he had very harsh words for the federal judge.
P. TRAFICANT: I don't -- I don't recall them really.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, you sort of smile. I mean, you have -- I mean...
P. TRAFICANT: I don't recall them.
VAN SUSTEREN: If -- I mean, do you have any sort of -- like do you lie in bed at night thinking, "If only I could talk to that federal judge, this is what I'd say."
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, I did that. Yes, I did that in the beginning.
VAN SUSTEREN: And what were your thoughts?
P. TRAFICANT: My thoughts were, "Why wouldn't you let him bring his testimony?" If the government had...
VAN SUSTEREN: And there was just -- I mean, there was -- they didn't have more passion than that?
P. TRAFICANT: My thing -- oh, no. I never felt like I wanted to hurt her or anything. No, that's just not me. But...
VAN SUSTEREN: I didn't mean to hurt her.
P. TRAFICANT: No, no. I never thought that. Oh, people have come up to me with those wishes, and I mean -- no, I would never think that way. I thought she was controlled by the FBI. I thought she was put there for a reason. At times, I thought, "What do they have on her?"
Honestly, I did think that. I don't know if they do or not, but those are my thoughts, and you asked me, and I'm honestly telling you. I would think, "Maybe she's hiding something and she has to do with they say." I'm serious. That's how I was thinking. And I don't know if she is or she isn't.
VAN SUSTEREN: Up next, more with the wife of former Congressman James Traficant. So whose idea was the hair? I'll ask her.
And later, Sarah Fisher is speeding into history, but it's no big deal to her. The fastest woman in the Indy Racing League slows down go ON THE RECORD.
But, first, his business update.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. TRAFICANT: Presidents Ford, Carter endorsed President Clinton's plan to grant China most favored nation trade status, now called Normal. Normal, my two pairs (ph). Beam me up, ladies and gentlemen. Ford, Carter, and Clinton won't get it until there's a Chinese missile shoved right up their assets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: More with the wife of former Congressman James Traficant. She never turned her back on him, but she wasn't at his trial. I asked Patricia why.
P. TRAFICANT: Women have a way of -- everything shows on our faces. I don't know. I -- it would be me. I couldn't sit there and listen to those lies. I couldn't do that.
And I didn't want to put any distractions on him. It really affects him when we are in pain or hurting. It bothers him. So I just chose -- after speaking with him about it, I chose to stay at home.
VAN SUSTEREN: When he'd come home at night during the trial -- I mean, the trial must have been tough. It must...
P. TRAFICANT: He didn't come home at night. He only came home on the weekends.
VAN SUSTEREN: Even when he was at trial.
P. TRAFICANT: Right. He stayed there. He slept there. He stayed in a hotel. I spoke with him all the time. All the time.
People would come back into town, tell me what was going on. And then I became frightened when I learned what was going on in the courtroom. I became frightened.
VAN SUSTEREN: Frightened about what?
P. TRAFICANT: He was not allowed to bring any of his witnesses forward. She would excuse the jury, the judge. Then he had to question them in front of a prosecution, prosecutors, and the judge, and then they'd dismiss the testimony. So his witnesses were not allowed to testify in front of the jury. So, consequently, they didn't hear the whole trial.
VAN SUSTEREN: Tish, you know, what do you do while your husband's in prison? I mean, how do you go on with your life?
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, I work. Contrary to what people think, I've worked for 41 years, and I love my profession.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you do?
P. TRAFICANT: I'm a hair stylist. Mainly, I -- I'm more comfortable with hair coloring. That's...
VAN SUSTEREN: Which raises an interesting question.
P. TRAFICANT: Yes, I knew...
VAN SUSTEREN: Speaking of hair stylists, I bring up that -- you brought it up. Your husband's hair has been this...
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, it's a nightmare.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's a nightmare? What's with his hair?
P. TRAFICANT: I don't know. I guess he was just comfortable like that. I don't know. We used to discuss it at great lengths. Finally, I said, "Listen, one of us looks good, and, apparently, it's not you," and so be it. And it was something that, after a while, that was it. It was done. I just don't even discuss it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did he like his hair?
P. TRAFICANT: I think he must have.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it certainly has caused a lot of discussion.
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, I know. It was just always in the paper, on the news. Who cares?
VAN SUSTEREN: What about his...
P. TRAFICANT: He didn't care.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about his style? I mean, he was quite proud of his style. He would boast about his style.
P. TRAFICANT: Well, you know, that was just who he was, and I think it never even bothered him before. It didn't bother me until people started coming on about, "What's with the ties? Why -- why are you wearing those outdated suits?"
And I have to tell you something. He never liked to shop. He just didn't like to do that. Clothes were of no interest to him. Never.
VAN SUSTEREN: He boasted about his blue jean suit.
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, he -- I tried get rid of those things. I mean, I used to hide them, dispose of some of them. He'd ask me where things were. I'd go, "I don't know." I'd get rid of them, put them out to the trash.
Honestly, I did many things that he didn't know about, and if he's listening to this program -- I don't think he will be able to -- he'll find out. You know, he might be angry for a second.
It was just how he was. It never bothered him. Clothes didn't interest him. What interests him was what came out of people's mouths, what came out of their heart, their soul. He -- that's what interests him the most.
VAN SUSTEREN: How do you -- how do you intend to spend the next years, you know, with him in prison? I mean, are you going to go visit him in...
P. TRAFICANT: Oh, yes. Oh, sure. I am. It's five hours. It's a five-hour drive. I'm doing everything I can, cooperating with attorneys, to see what we could do about his situation, to get him a new trial, a fair trial, anything.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you optimistic he's going to get a new trial?
P. TRAFICANT: I don't think they'll allow it. I don't think they'll allow it.
VAN SUSTEREN: In prison, has he described, I mean, what prison life is like.
P. TRAFICANT: Yes, he writes letters. He writes me letters, and...
VAN SUSTEREN: What does he write?
P. TRAFICANT: They're humorous, and then they're honest. And this last incident, he's -- they call it -- he's in the hole or...
VAN SUSTEREN: Isolation.
P. TRAFICANT: ... isolation.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why is he in isolation?
P. TRAFICANT: Well, he was offered -- he was given the job of a cook, which is paid $60 a month. He has met other inmates in prison that are poor, and they don't have families that can support him. So he requested that he take a less-paying job. "I'll take a $5-a-month job. Give it to these people who need the spending money that can't get it."
Well, they said to him, "No. You have a choice. You either take the job, or you're in the hole." Well, he wouldn't take the job, you know, and that's so common for me. I thought, "Oh, yeah, that's exactly what he would do, give the money to someone else." He really always thinks that way.
VAN SUSTEREN: So how do you deal with the fact? Your husband's going to miss your daughter's wedding.
P. TRAFICANT: Right.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman to a cage, in essence.
P. TRAFICANT: Right, and that's exactly it. I don't know, but, for every action, there's a reaction. For everything that happens to you, there's a reason. He has said it. Both of us have said it. He said, "Something positive is going to come out of this. I don't know what it is today, but something will come out of it."
My daughter said to me the other day, "You know, Mom," she said, "There's a beginning and an end to everything. Dad's the beginning. We don't know who the end will be, when it will be, but, sometime down the road, someone might say 'Remember that congressman that went to jail? He started this.'"
And that's how I look at life. That's how I look at it. It's something you move through.
Click here to order the entire transcript of the August 21 edition of On the Record.
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