CLEVELAND -- James A. Traficant Jr. already made history by being expelled from Congress. Now he will try to become the first person since the 18th century to win his seat back from behind bars.
The defiant Democrat was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison for bribery and racketeering and asked the judge to imprison him in Ohio so he can seek a 10th term in the Nov. 5 election.
"Quite frankly, I expect to be re-elected," Traficant told U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells after she imposed the sentence.
The 61-year-old former House member was immediately led off to jail in handcuffs after the judge refused to let him remain free on bail while he appeals his conviction.
Traficant, who last week became only the second congressman thrown out since the Civil War, filed to run for the House as an independent within weeks of his April conviction.
Despite his conviction and expulsion, Traficant is still on the ballot. But the U.S. Constitution states that a congressional candidate must be a resident of the state where he is seeking office on the day of the election -- and there's no guarantee Traficant would be assigned to federal prison in Ohio. Not only that, but his congressional district has been heavily redrawn this year.
Traficant faces an uncertain future even if he were to win election. He would be in the unusual position of trying to serve behind prison walls, and the same lawmakers who tossed him out have the power to refuse to seat him.
"He's prepared to serve his time and he's going to fight on," said Mark Colucci, appointed by Traficant to represent him during his appeal. "And he's going to be on the ballot, and to him, quite frankly it's kind of just another day and he's moving down the road."
If Traficant wins re-election from prison, he would be the first inmate congressman since Matthew Lyon of Vermont more than 200 years ago. Lyon was re-elected in 1798 while serving a four-month jail sentence for violating the Alien and Sedition Act in a letter criticizing President John Adams. The law was later declared unconstitutional.
Traficant, known for his arm-waving rants on the House floor, his loud '70s-style suits and his unruly gray hair, was unrepentant Tuesday, telling one of the prosecutors, "You should be ashamed of yourself, not me."
The judge gave Traficant a longer sentence than the minimum 7 1/4 years prosecutors had requested, saying he had undermined respect for the government and lied to distract attention from the charges against him.
The judge also fined him $150,000 on top of the $96,000 the jury required him to forfeit in ill-gotten gains.
Traficant's attorney said he will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals to release the former congressman during his appeal.
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