YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Former U.S. Rep. James Traficant Jr., D-Ohio, who spent time in prison on corruption and racketeering charges, has been critically injured in a tractor accident at his northeast Ohio home.
Traficant, 73, was hospitalized at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Youngstown after being flown there by helicopter from another hospital, Goshen police district Chief Steven McDaniel said.
McDaniel said Traficant had driven his 1943 Ford tractor about 140 feet inside the barn when a push bar at the front of the tractor clipped a piece of farm equipment and flipped the tractor over, pinning him underneath.
A man who was at the farm with Traficant called 911 around 7:50 p.m. Tuesday, McDaniel said.
"The witness said he was just going to park it," McDaniel said. "We're unsure if he (Traficant) might have hit the clutch instead of the brake."
Traficant was unconscious when firefighters pulled the tractor off him, McDaniel said. The Ohio State Highway Patrol is assisting in the accident investigation.
The farm is in Green Township, about 20 miles from Youngstown. Traficant lives in nearby Poland.
Traficant served more than 17 years in the U.S. House before being expelled in July 2002, three months after a federal court jury in Cleveland found him guilty on 10 counts. Traficant spent seven years in prison but still managed to collect 15 percent of the vote in 2002 while living behind bars. A former aide, Tim Ryan, won the race.
The barn where the accident happened played a role in the investigation and eventual indictment of Traficant in 2001. A businessman testified at trial about having built the barn for Traficant but then having trouble getting paid what he was owed. They settled on a smaller amount than the barn's value, the businessman testified. Traficant went on the radio to urge shoppers to ignore a strike by union workers and shop at the businessman's grocery stores.
McDaniel said he would occasionally stop and talk with Traficant when he saw him outside working. He said that last time that occurred was about a year ago and that Traficant appeared to be in good physical shape.
After Traficant's release in 2009, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress as an independent in 2010, winning 16 percent of the vote.