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Prison political primer: Traficant's out, but other pols headed behind bars

September 2, 2009 | 11:30 am

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the politicians who have run afoul of the law. In the spirit of clarity, The Ticket offers this handy guide to recent events:

Headed out: Former Ohio congressman James A. Traficant Jr. walked out of a federal prison today in Minnesota. The colorful Democrat — “colorful” being polite journalese for the excessively eccentric —served seven years in prison for corruption. He was convicted in 2002 of bribery and racketeering for accepting bribes from businessmen and taking kickbacks from staff members. Traficant leaves prison

Traficant was famous for a rambling speaking style. During his nine-week trial in Cleveland, he sparred with the judge, used profanity, dropped boxes on the floor and threatened physical harm to the prosecutors.

Traficant was expelled from the House of Representatives, the first congressmen tossed out of the chamber since the Civil War.

In the video above, taken at a congressional hearing on his expulsion, he verbally attacks the allegations — and the prosecutors — in his distinctively earthy style.

Headed in: One wonders if there’s some cosmic rule in the universe that states that as one crooked congressman leaves prison another must replace him to maintain a balance.

Former Rep. William J. Jefferson faces more than 20 years behind bars when he’s scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 30. Jefferson, who may be best remembered as the guy who had $90,000 in cash in his freezer, was found guilty in August of 11 of 16 criminal counts including bribery, racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

The Associated Press reports that the Louisiana Democrat filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation last week.

Already in: A former Democratic state senator in Pennsylvania, Vincent Fumo, reported Monday to a low-security prison in Ashland, Ky. He too has been convicted on corruption charges.

Already in: Another former Democratic lawmaker convicted of fraud, onetime New Jersey state Sen. Wayne Bryant, reported in late August to a federal prison in West Virginia.

Turning himself in: Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez surrendered today to Connecticut State Police — for the second time this year — amid allegations of corruption at City Hall. Perez, who was already charged in January with taking a bribe, denies any wrongdoing. So does former state Rep. Abraham Giles, who also turned himself in to authorities today.

Now, getting back to Traficant ....

... here’s another video of a classic Traficant rant. In it, he defends himself before his House colleagues. He even defends his flashy style of dress, saying that “deep down you want to wear wider-bottoms -- you’re just not secure enough to do it.”

-- Steve Padilla

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Photo: Traficant walks free from a federal prison in Minnesota. Credit: Associated Press