On April 2002, Ohio Rep. Jim Traficant — the Democrat with a toupee so bad it looked like a tribble passed out on his head — was convicted of all charges he faced, including racketeering, bribery, kickbacks and fraud. Sure, these days, that kind of behavior means you get to keep your chairmanship, but a few years ago it was a big deal.

But now, Traficant’s going to be a free man:

On the eve of his release Wednesday from a 7-year stint in federal prison, colorful former Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) is proving to be just as provocative as when he was expelled from Congress.

While he has been publicly silent and turned down numerous interviews while incarcerated, Traficant is the subject of considerable debate back home in Youngstown where he will be greeted as a returning hero by some and as a reprobate by others.

His legion of fans still considers him an authentic blue-collar voice, a standard-bearer for the economically beleaguered Mahoning Valley. They see him as a man who spent his career in politics fighting for the working class — the Almanac of American Politics once described him “as one of the kindest and most thoughtful members to House employees and pages” — and was ultimately railroaded by overzealous prosecutors.

Their excitement is palpable — 1,200 people have already put down $20 each to attend a welcome home party scheduled for Sunday evening. A local T-shirt store has sold roughly 600 “Welcome Home Jimbo” shirts to those attending the event.

Frankly, I hope Traficant can find his way back to Congress and join on the free-range criminals on Capitol Hill — it’s not like it can get any worse. His trademark “Beam me up, Ms. Speaker” would be the perfect fit right now. In addition, he wasn’t afraid to buck his own party, especially on illegals and border security.

Here’s Jim Traficant at his finest:

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