WASHINGTON, July 18 (UPI) -- The House Ethics Committee Thursday debated what punishment to recommend against Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, whom it earlier found guilty of ethics violations stemming from his federal court conviction on bribery, fraud and tax-evasion charges.
A defiant Traficant later cautioned the committee not to act precipitously since he planned not only to seek a stay of sentencing but also to ask for a new trial based on evidence he said he has of a relationship between the trial judge's husband and one of the witnesses who testified against him.
"The committee ... deliberated until well after 11 o'clock last night ... went over a lot of evidence at which time the members voted on the 10 counts," Chairman Joel Hefley, R-Colo., said. The committee found "clear and convincing evidence" proving the first nine counts of complaint against Traficant but dismissed a 10th count.
Traficant said he would not appear before the panel as it began considering his fate, opting instead to ask for extra time on the House floor when the full body meets on the issue.
The committee could recommend expulsion from the House or a lesser punishment. Expulsion would require a two-thirds vote by the full House and if that happens would make Traficant only the second member since the Civil War to be thrown out of the body.
"Hear me," Traficant blustered at a news conference. "That expelled member received money from an undercover FBI agent posing as an Arab sheik and was captured on videotape. There's o physical evidence on me."
A Web survey conducted by WEWS-TV, Cleveland, found 83 percent of those responding saying Traficant should be expelled. But a Web poll of voters in Traficant's district said they did not think he received a fair trial, with 64 percent saying they thought the congressman was railroaded.
Traficant said whatever the panel decides, that decision should be stayed until the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on his motions.
Traficant was convicted by a federal jury in Cleveland April 11 for accepting favors from businessmen in exchange for his influence on Capitol Hill.
Traficant said U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells should never had presided over his case because her husband had a fiduciary relationship with one of the witnesses who testified against him. Traficant said taking action against him would amount to a rush to judgment by the committee. He noted he presented a lot more evidence to the committee than he was allowed to submit at his trial.
"Quite frankly, I'm fed up. I'm pissed off. And I expect the prosecutor and the judge to be called before the panel and that should be this Congress. ... We have a hell of a mess here," Traficant said.
The Youngstown Democrat again swore to keep fighting.
"I will not resign if my name was resign," Traficant said. "And if I'm to be expelled under these circumstances, then God save the republic."
"I'm damned if I'm going to be steamrolled by anybody," he added.
No matter what happens, Traficant said, he will seek re-election in November -- even if he has to run his campaign from prison.
"If they vote for me and I get a majority of the votes, there'll be a hell of a stink," Traficant said.
In 1983, Traficant successfully defended himself against charges of accepting $163,000 from mobsters while he was sheriff of Mahoning County. Traficant convinced that jury he had been conducting an undercover investigation to break up the mob and that's why the FBI had tapes of him talking with mobsters.