Disgraced Fmr. Rep. James Traficant Released From Prison

Nine-term Ohio Dem released from jail after serving out a bribery conviction.

ByLindsey Ellerson
September 02, 2009, 2:48 PM

Sept. 2, 2009— -- Former congressman James Traficant of Ohio, remembered best for his outrageous wardrobe, unruly hairdos and fiery speeches on the House floor, was released from prison today after serving a seven-year sentence for bribery and racketeering.

The nine-term Ohio Democrat, whose hair is now tamed, sported a gray t-shirt and white shorts as he left the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn. Public information officer Dan Cansino of the center told ABC News that Traficant got into a cab that was waiting for him outside the facility.

The former congressman from Youngstown faces three years of probation, which will be regulated by the Northern District of Ohio, according to Cansino.

It is not known whether the former congressman will return to public life, or what he will do next. When reached by ABC News, Traficant's wife refused to comment.

The 68-year-old maverick was known for his flamboyance and legal entanglements. A "Star Trek" aficionado, Traficant almost always finished his speeches on the House floor with the signature sign-off, "Beam me up."

The former congressman liked to put on a show, waving his arms, lambasting people he did not care for and using colorful language. His often eccentric behavior was punctuated with rhetoric such as, "I plan to fight like a junkyard dog" and "I ought to kick you right in the crotch."

After Traficant was convicted in 2002 of tax evasion and for taking bribes, hearings began in the House Ethics Committee to determine whether the body would recommend Traficant's expulsion from the House of Representatives.

On the final day of the hearing, the combative Ohio Democrat urged the committee to disregard everything the opposing council had said.

"I think they're delusionary. I think they have had something funny for lunch in their meal," he said. "I think they should be handcuffed to a chain-link fence, flogged, and all of their hearsay evidence should be thrown the hell out, and if they lie again, I'm going to go over and kick them in the crotch. Thank you very much."

Traficant's Expulsion From Congress

While there have been many motions of expulsion in Congress' history, Traficant is part of an elite group -- one of just five -- who have been expelled from the House of Representatives.

In a 420-1 vote, the House found that "his conviction of conspiracy to commit bribery and to defraud US receipt of illegal gratuities, obstruction of justice, filing false tax returns and racketeering, in connection with receipt of favors and money in return for official acts, and receipt of salary kickbacks from staff," as documented by the Office of the House Historian, was grounds for expulsion.

In a memo provided to ABC News on members of the House who were expelled, the House historian also points out that the Ohio Democrat was the most recent and only the second member since the Civil War to be expelled.

During his life in the public eye, Traficant was long a target of suspicion by a grand jury looking into organized crime in Youngstown, but he always adamantly denied any ties to the mob.

"I have a hell of a record, and the mob hates Jim Traficant," he said. "In fact, Jim Traficant's life has been threatened by the mob, and I've had about enough of it."

In the 1980s, Traficant was the sheriff of Youngstown, a city that was at times referred to as "Crime Town, USA." He made his name as a small town "Dirty Harry," until the federal authorities charged him with racketeering for accepting bribes. After representing himself in the criminal trial, Traficant was acquitted.

Traficant used the same defense in 2002 as he did in the 1980s -- the bureaucrats were going after a little guy with a big mouth.

"We've got a government of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats. I love Congress but Congress don't even govern anymore. Even the federal judges are afraid of these people," Traficant told Charles Gibson on "Good Morning America" on the first day of his trial in 2002.

"Look, I'm like a mouse looking up at an elephant, asking the elephant to surrender, quite frankly," he said. "But you know, I'll tell you something, I believe in America that we have gotten something out of hand here. I believe we have bureaucrats who run America, and people are afraid of the government."

Traficant's Homecoming After Release From Prison

A homecoming party is planned for the former congressmen on his return to Youngstown.

Linda Kovachik, a former Capitol Hill staff member for Traficant, displayed yellow ribbons outside her house to welcome him home, the AP reported.

ABC News attempted to contact Kovachik, but received her voicemail, which advertised the "appreciation dinner" for Traficant's return and provided directions on how to buy tickets for the event.

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