Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Adar, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- THE prospects of a Tyson vs. Lewis "super fight" are fading almost as rapidly as Michael Jackson's skin color. And in my view, this is a good thing. After all, the chances of these two men actually fighting inside the ring were Calista Flockhart slim to begin with.
This may, in actuality, be a good thing. After all, who wants to spend $50 for pay-per-view when chances are excellent that the fight will last about as long as my New Years' resolution not to make fun of Rosie O'Donnell? This is particularly so, when the legal system provides more controversy and drama than could be dreamt up by Don King, Vince McMahon and my mother-in-law combined.
U.S. Representative James A. Traficant Jr. recently went on trial for political corruption. Of course, political corruption trials are as ordinary but this trial promises to be something special because Traficant is no ordinary Congressman.
Traficant is a nine-term Ohio Democrat known for his, shall we say, "eccentric" ways. He can often be found on Capital Hill wearing polyester suits and a hairstyle that would even give Don King second thoughts.
However, Traficant is probably best known for his one-minute tirades on the House floor, which he often concludes with his now famous, "Beam me up, Mr. Speaker." In these rants, Traficant expresses his views on everything from prayer in school to genital biting at Spanish soccer games. And no, I'm not making this up.
In this case, federal prosecutors have charged Traficant with bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, filing false tax returns and racketeering. In addition to the "usual" charges that he accepted money in exchange for influence, he is also being accused of forcing his congressional staffers to work as farmhands on his property and kick back part of their salaries to him. Once again, I am not making this up.
Nevertheless, despite the strong case laid out by the prosecution in its original indictment, Traficant is mounting a vigorous legal defense. In fact, he is being represented by the architect of the most shocking political corruption acquittal of all time - himself.
In 1983, acting on his own behalf, Traficant obtained an acquittal in perhaps the most astonishing verdict not actually involving O.J. Simpson. And he was able to do so despite the fact that he does not possess a law degree or apparently, a single working brain cell.
In the 1983 trial, Traficant was accused of accepting $163,000 from mobsters. At trial, prosecutors presented proverbial the "mountain of evidence" supporting the charges. Traficant conceded that he had taken the money but claimed that he had done so as part of his own private, one-man undercover operation to defeat organized crime. The jury found this explanation to be perfectly reasonable and acquitted him on all charges. For the last time, I am not making this stuff up!
If convicted on all counts, Traficant could face up to 60 years in prison and fines of up to $2 million. As a result, Traficant has been filing papers with the court faster than even Enron could shred them.
Before trial, Traficant filed a $250 million lawsuit against the government claiming that he was singled out for prosecution. However, in just two days, that lawsuit was dismissed as lacking any factual basis. In fairness to Traficant, the actions of Congress never require any factual basis so why should the judicial system be any different?
Traficant has also unsuccessfully attempted to suppress the introduction of certain evidence, influence the jury pool and adjust the position of the TV cameras to better show the true "ambiance" of the proceedings. I really wish that I was making this part up.
Notwithstanding this slow start, Traficant is still confident of his chances of prevailing at trial. In fact, in a recent CNN interview, he sounded much more like a boxer than a politician as he urged the prosecution to "bring it on" and declared that he would "kick their a--."
Traficant even went so far as to predicted the outcome of his trial in the style of Muhammad Ali:
Float like a butterfly,
OK, OK, I did make that one up! Nevertheless, I truly believe that U.S. vs. Traficant could be the greatest entertainment extravaganza of all time.
And the best part is that, unlike a professional boxing match, the white guy actually stands a chance of
01/25/02: Until irreconcilable differences do us part