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Charles Rangel: What did he gain by walking out of his ethics trial?

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Cliff Owen/AP

(Read caption) Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York walks to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct's adjudicatory hearing into his alleged ethics violations in Washington Monday.

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Charles Rangel walked out of his congressional ethics trial in protest on Monday. Why did he refuse to defend himself? After all, if the House eventually condemns him (or worse) over alleged financial and fund-raising misconduct, the New York Democrat’s reputation will be irretrievably tarnished.

Congressman Rangel said he was leaving the proceedings because he was being treated unfairly. In a statement issued Monday afternoon, he charged that the ethics subcommittee holding the trial had provided him with its 80-page document of charges and evidence only seven days ago. One week was not enough time to prepare a defense, Rangel said – particularly because he no longer has a team of defense lawyers.

“How was I supposed to deal with this when I received it just days before the hearing without an attorney by my side?” said Rangel in his statement.

The ethics panel denied Rangel’s appeal to delay the trial while he set up a legal defense fund and hired a new legal team. His former attorneys withdrew from the case in October after he ran out of money to pay them, according to Rangel.

Ethics panel members told Rangel that they needed to forge ahead because there is little time left in the congressional session, he charged. In Rangel’s view this means he is being deprived of due process rights because other members do not want his case to infringe on their holiday vacations.

“The committee has deprived me of the fundamental right to counsel and has chosen to proceed as if it is fair and impartial and operating according to rules, when in reality they are depriving me of my rights,” Rangel said in his statement.

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