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City Council eyes booting politician Felony conviction for Roxbury rep requires ‘action’

City Council eyes booting politician
Felony conviction for Roxbury rep requires ‘action’
By Richard Weir and Natalie Sherman  |   Saturday, October 30, 2010  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Local Politics

A jury found Chuck Turner guilty at the Moakley Federal Courthouse.
Photo by Ted Fitzgerald

Chuck Turner’s conviction yesterday on corruption charges has dumped the thorny issue of his political future in the laps of Hub councilors who must decide if they’ll strip the six-term Roxbury pol of his job before his sentencing.

“Our rules require us to take action if any member is convicted of a felony,” Boston City Council President Michael Ross said yesterday.

Ross said he reached out to Turner after the verdict to tell him that he plans to hold the fateful hearing within two weeks. A two-thirds vote is needed to oust Turner.

Councilor Stephen Murphy said he’s “leaning” toward letting Turner “exhaust” the appeals process — should the 70-year-old councilor choose to fight his conviction — before backing any bids to force him to step down.

“He will be back at work, unless we take some kind of vote,” said Murphy. “He was a good councilor. He went in there and fought for what he believed was the right fight for the people he represented.”

Councilor Maureen Feeney, who was president when Turner was arrested at City Hall on Nov. 21, 2008, deferred to Ross when asked if she would approve of Turner keeping his job until his scheduled Jan. 25 sentencing.

“It’s very sad. He’s one of a kind,” Feeney added.

Charles Yancey, who sits next to Turner during sessions, said he’s “still dealing with the shock” of the verdict and said Turner must decide what happens next.

Turner faces up to 25 years in the clink after a federal jury, after deliberating for less than two days, convicted him of attempted extortion and making false statements to the FBI for lying about taking a $1,000 bribe to help a Roxbury nightclub operator get a liquor license.

“Life is life. They made their decision,” a feisty Turner said outside court, where he was greeted with hugs by many of his loyal supporters who followed his two-week trial.

Turner seemed to be gaining the upper hand during the first week of his trial after his defense team attacked the credibility of the government’s reluctant star witness, out-of-work Roxbury nightclub operator Ron Wilburn.

Wilburn was paid $29,000 by the FBI to secretly videotape palming Turner a $1,000 bribe in exchange for his help in getting Wilburn a liquor license.

But Turner’s decision to take the witness stand, and then tell jurors he had no memory of the incident — despite it being shown on film in court — proved disastrous.

Prominent defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate yesterday called that move a critical “blunder.”

Former prosecutor and Boston criminal lawyer Tim Bradl said no matter what was said on the stand, it’s still hard for the defense team to beat back the videotape evidence. “The jurors have a photograph in front of them of a greased palm and that is difficult to overcome,” he said.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1292519

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