After holding a short trial Monday, the House subcommittee investigating 13 alleged ethics violations by Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel is deliberating behind closed doors to consider possible charges against him.
The bipartisan panel of four Democrats and four Republicans decided that the evidence presented at the hearing was sufficient and no witnesses needed to be called.
After two years of investigation, the hearing moved forward Monday – despite Rangel's plea for a postponement of the hearing while he retained counsel.
View Rangel's request for a delay of the hearing.
The subcommittee denied Rangel's request after a private meeting and then moved forward without the 20-term congressman's appearance.
Rangel said that he ran out of money to pay for an attorney because the investigation has carried on for so long and that he has already spent about $2 million in legal fees. He railed against the panel for not giving him more time to find a lawyer to wade through all of the documents in this hearing and said he would not attend any further hearings without representation.
"I object to the proceeding, and I, with all due respect, since I don't have counsel to advise me, I'm going to have to excuse myself from these proceedings because I have no idea what this man has put together over two years that was given to me last week," said Rangel.
The ethics committee chairwoman, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, said that there could not be any more delays in the trial because Congress will adjourn soon. She added that Rangel has known about the hearing for months.
He said that fate of his "50 years of public service" should not be dictated by the congressional calender.
R. Black Chisam, chief counsel for the ethics committee, read all 13 charges against Rangel. He is accused of bringing dishonor to Congress by using a rent-stabilized apartment for campaign activities, failing to pay taxes on a rental property in the Dominican Republic, and improperly using congressional letterhead in a fundraising effort.
Rangel has acknowledged he broke some rules, but said he did so unknowingly.
Chisam said he does not believe there was any evidence of corruption in this case or that Rangel sought any personal benefits by his behavior.
If the panel finds him guilty on any of the 13 counts, they will send a report to the full 10-member Ethics Committee, which will determine a sanction.
The allegations forced Rangel to step down from his powerful position as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rangel easily won his 21st term in Congress earlier this month.
As he faces a panel of his peers, there is some mixed emotion among voters in his district, but most stand behind their representative.
"He's with the rest of the gang, all of them. All politicians, they come in, they don't have a lot of money. They're in politics to become rich. It seems like only the citizens is losing,:" said one Harlem resident.
"I hope he gets over. I hope he seriously gets over. This is what you've got to realize, this is New York, this is America. You know what I mean?" said another. "And the rich get richer and poor get poorer and if he got over, God Bless him because he has done a lot of good."
The last time an ethics hearing took place in Congress was 2002. It led to the expulsion of Ohio Congressman Jim Traficant. Unlike the Rangel case, Traficant had been convicted of bribery charges prior to the hearing.
It is more likely that if Rangel is punished, it will be as a public reprimand or censure.