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US Congressman Rangel Ethics Trial Under Way

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY, appears on Capitol Hill in Washington, 15 Nov. 2010 before his ethics trial.

U.S. Representative Charles Rangel has appeared at the opening of his ethics trial, where four of his fellow Democrats and four Republican members of Congress are weighing whether he violated ethics and federal regulations.

In his opening statement, Rangel said he has no lawyer and no funding to get one. He said he has put $2 million into legal counsel already and has been advised that moving forward with the trial would cost him at least $1 million more. He left the room after his statement.

The head of the panel, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, said the lawmakers were advised Rangel's lawyers withdrew their services a month ago.

The panel denied Rangel's request for a delay in the trial until he could get a lawyer, and then continued the proceedings without the New York Democrat.

Lawmakers in July charged Rangel with 13 violations of ethics and federal regulations, including that he failed to pay taxes on a home in the Dominican Republic. He also is accused of failing to report income and improperly soliciting donations.

The 80-year-old lawmaker is the most senior of New York's congressional delegation. He has served in the House for almost 40 years.

Rangel has been accused in the past of ethics violations that include financial improprieties and fundraising irregularities. The congressman blamed those problems on sloppy bookkeeping.

In March, he stepped down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee as the House Ethics Committee carried out a probe of his finances.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.