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Ohio congressman faces raft of criminal charges

Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, faces a 10-count federal indictment.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio and a longtime House member, was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury in Cleveland.

The indictment accuses the congressman of four counts of bribery, two counts of tax evasion and one count each of obstruction of justice, seeking bribes, conspiracy to defraud the government and racketeering.

The charges result from a lengthy federal investigation into public corruption and organized crime that had already ensnared the former director of Traficant's district office and one of the congressman's former advisers.

Read the Traficant indictment (FindLaw) (PDF)
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Traficant, now in his ninth term representing Ohio's 17th Congressional District, has said repeatedly he had expected to be indicted. According to the Justice Department, the congressman will be given a summons and arraigned within two weeks but will not be arrested.

Traficant is known for making colorful speeches on the House floor, many of which he ends with the tag line, "Beam me up." His Web site features Traficant swinging a two-by-four emblazoned with the phrase, "Bangin' away in D.C."

The 60-year-old congressman angered members of his own party earlier this year when he crossed over to vote for Republican Dennis Hastert as speaker of the House. He was forced out of the Democratic caucus and lost his committee assignments.

Traficant regularly supports Republican causes and is the subject of persistent rumors of potential party-switching. The GOP reportedly considered letting him speak at the 2000 party convention.

"I would hope that this matter is resolved quickly," said Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas, a member of the Democratic leadership.

Traficant represents an area in northeastern Ohio that includes Youngstown, an area that long has been the focus of federal investigations into organized crime.

The indictments are part of a federal investigation that has included more than 70 convictions, including former Traficant aide Charles O'Nesti, who has since died.

The indictment is not the first for Traficant. In 1983 he was acquitted on federal bribery charges dating to his tenure as a sheriff in Ohio. He represented himself in the case despite having no legal training against experienced federal prosecutors.

That acquittal, and Traficant's flamboyant character, has made him something of a folk figure in his home district.

He ran for president in 1988, and although his candidacy drew little attention outside of the Rust Belt, he did receive 2 percent of the vote in the Ohio primary and earned a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

In an appearance on CNN's "The Spin Room" in early March, Traficant said he expected to be indicted "any day."

He said of a possible trial: "I'm going to look at 12 jurors again and they'd better get all 12 and they'd better fix the damn jury, because it's going to be a rumble wherever it is."

In 1996, according to Congressional Quarterly, Traficant received the largest vote of any House member in the country, getting more than 218,000 votes and facing no Republican opponent.

CNN Justice Department correspondent Kelli Arena contributed to this article.

Traficant considering invitation to attend GOP convention (July 26, 2000)
Control of House hinges on key races (November 6, 2000)

Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio
Rep. James Traficant's one-minute speeches
U.S. District Court, northern district of Ohio

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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