Jury finds Chuck Turner guilty on all counts
Council to address verdict within 2 weeks
By Natalie Sherman and Joe Dwinell | Friday, October 29, 2010 | http://www.bostonherald.com | Local Politics
Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner outside federal court in Boston this week. A jury returned a verdict of guilty in his trial on corruption charges, today.
Photo by Ted Fitzgerald
A defiant Chuck Turner was found guilty today of taking a $1,000 bribe from an FBI informant and then lying about it to authorities, a jury ruled in U.S. District Court in Boston.
But the 70-year-old Roxbury city councilor refused to admit guilt outside court after the verdict and even said he’d continue his politicking — even behind bars.
“Life is life and they made their decision,” Turner said. “I’m not the first person who’s innocent to be sent to jail.”
The popular politician said he’s a born organizer and he’ll now “organize in jail.”
Turner faces up to 25 years in prison for attempted extortion and making false statements to the FBI. The $87,500-a-year councilor also stands to lose his city pension. He is set to be sentenced Jan. 25.
City Council President Mike Ross said a hearing on Turner’s political fate will be held within the next two weeks. A two-thirds majority is needed to banish Turner from the board.
“Our rules require us to take action if any member is convicted of a felony,” said Ross. “I have reached out to Councilor Turner to inform him of how I am moving forward. I intend to call for a hearing within the next two weeks — to be held shortly thereafter — in order for the Council to take appropriate action.”
Turner addressed his possible expulsion from his job, saying the council’s vote is “a symbol of the fact that they know I’m not guilty because they know the quality of work I do every day.”
The jury announced soon after 2 p.m. that they didn’t buy Turner’s defense that he didn’t take the cash, blaming it on his foggy memory. The guilty verdict comes on the second day of deliberations and was announced to a packed courtroom that kept stony silent fearing retribution from the judge who warned against any outbursts.
Turner, the sole witness in his own defense, denied on the witness stand ever seeing the bribe pressed into his palm in a so-called “minister’s handshake” with FBI informant Ronald Wilburn, a longtime Hub business consultant who was shopping for political muscle to land a liquor license for a proposed nightclub.
Turner’s defense attorney, Barry Wilson, said yesterday federal informant Wilburn kept $800 of the $1,000 alleged bribe money Turner is accused of accepting. The money has never been accounted for.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John T. McNeil scoffed at the eleventh-hour allegation yesterday that the informant kept most of the money, calling it “ridiculous.” McNeil told jurors Turner suffered from “magic memory loss” and “selective amnesia.”
Turner is now the second corrupt Hub pol to be bagged in this FBI sting. Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson admitted she took some $23,000 in bribes — including an infamous exchange when she stuffed cash into her bra.
Turner was also caught on an FBI tape taking cash in a handshake with Wilburn — an exchange he denied on the stand.
UPDATE: Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said today he’s focusing on gaining back the “public’s trust” following the verdict:
“Today is a very sad and unfortunate day for the city of Boston. Councilor Turner has represented the people of his district well for over a decade. I remain shocked at the actions Councilor Turner has been found guilty of today and will continue to work hard promoting a spirit of public trust and confidence in our elected officials and government agencies.
“While today is a disappointing day we must look with optimism toward a better tomorrow. We will continue to work closely with the residents of District 7 – Roxbury, Lower Roxbury, areas of the South End, Fenway and Dorchester, to make sure their voices are heard and that their representation is not negatively affected by today’s decision.”
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