CLEVELAND, July 30 (UPI) -- A federal judge Tuesday sentenced former Rep. James Traficant to eight years in prison and fined him $150,000 for demanding kickbacks and favors from his staff and accepting cash and other bribes from businessmen in exchange for using his influence on Capitol Hill.
U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells imposed the sentence after rejecting arguments a prison term would amount to double jeopardy since the Poland, Ohio, Democrat already had been expelled from the House.
Prosecutors argued successfully that expulsion is not a judicial punishment but rather a political one.
Traficant repeatedly interrupted the sentencing proceeding, saying: "I object, I object." He asked to be released on bond pending disposition of his appeals, but Wells refused, ordering him remanded immediately to the custody of U.S. marshals.
Traficant, who in 1983 beat charges he accepted bribes from mob figures while sheriff of Mahoning County, defended himself both at trial and before his House colleagues but had hired an attorney for the sentencing phase. At the start of Tuesday's proceedings, however, Traficant fired attorney Richard Hackerd as he began an argument for a reduced sentence. Wells allowed the dismissal but told Traficant he would not have to argue for a lesser sentence.
Traficant was convicted April 11 of racketeering, tax evasion and bribery charges following a more than two-month trial. After his expulsion hearing last week, however, one of the jurors said he would not have voted for conviction if he had heard testimony from businessman Richard Detore, who told the House ethics panel prosecutors pressured him to lie about bribing Traficant.
Wells rejected arguments that Detore's comments should lead to a new trial because, she said, Traficant could have called him as a defense witness.
"Everybody in Ohio and America knows that I've been railroaded," Traficant said on the courthouse steps.
Known for his blustery style, bad haircuts, ill-fitting suits and the tag line, "Beam me up," Traficant vowed to campaign for re-election from his prison cell. Traficant is running as an independent in the redrawn 17th Congressional District.