By Michael O'Brien - 09/02/09 03:54 PM EDT
Former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) was released from prison on Wednesday, enjoying his first day as a free man since being convicted on corruption charges in 2002.
The lawmaker made a name for himself in his Youngstown-area district — which he served for the better part of nine terms — in no small part due to his bringing home a number of pork-barrel projects. He also attracted national attention for his unorthodox and entertaining approach to politics.
During his time in the House, aides and lawmakers regularly stopped what they were doing to watch his famous one-minute speeches on the House floor, which usually were punctuated with the Star Trek comment of "Beam me up." Traficant also stunned some C-SPAN viewers late in his political career when he cursed repeatedly during an interview on "Washington Journal."
He will return home to a district that still largely welcomes him, despite having not reelected him in 2002 after he made the unusual decision to run for reelection from his jail cell after the House voted to expel him following the conviction. (The only member who voted against expulsion was then-Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., who was voted out of Congress in the wake of the Chandra Levy scandal.)
A number of media reports have cited the 1,200 former constituents who have paid $20 for tickets to a planned welcome-home party for Traficant, as well as for the "Welcome Home Jimbo" T-shirts that have been sold in town.
It's not clear what the strong-willed former lawmaker will do after his seven-year sentence, which was cut 10 months short for good behavior. Traficant is 68 years old, but family members and friends have been reluctant to tell various media outlets about the former congressman's health, given that he's been at the hospital in Minnesota for the last five years.
Traficant will still not enjoy complete freedom, at least not yet. He'll be subject to supervised release for the next three years, the Youngstown Vindicator reported, meaning that he'll have to receive a judge's permission to leave Ohio, will be subject to weapons searches in his home, and cannot spend time around other convicted felons.
There was no word Wednesday as to whether Traficant would follow through, as well, on the pledge for retribution he made during the debate to expel him from the House in 2002. "When I get out I will grab a sword like Maximus Meridius Demidius and as a gladiator I will stab people in the crotch," he said.
Rep. Tim Ryan (D) represents Traficant's old district.