FBI Paid Witness $30,000 To Bribe Chuck Turner

Published October 18, 2010

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner in December 2008

Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner in December 2008

Prosecutors say the FBI paid a witness $30,000 to bribe City Councilor Chuck Turner with $1,000 — and the witness has since turned against the government and refuses to testify.

That’s the headline from opening statements in Turner’s corruption trial, which got underway today in Boston federal court. WBUR’s David Boeri, who is covering the trial, said the government made its case in about 20 seconds.

Boeri paraphrased Assistant U.S. Attorney James Dowden: “In August 2007, somebody came to see Chuck Turner, offered him a bribe for a liquor license, and he took it. The FBI came back a year later and asked him about it, and he lied. Ladies and gentleman, that’s the case. It’s as simple as that.”

The FBI witness is businessman Ronald Wilburn, who has publicly criticized the government’s handling of the case. Last week, the Boston Globe reported:

He has criticized how the government handled the sting that resulted in the 2008 arrests of Turner and former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, and he has said he is angry about how he was treated as a cooperating witness and upset that authorities arrested only two individuals, both of them black politicians, in the investigation. Wilburn has told the Globe he had agreed to become an informant with the understanding that authorities were investigating what he characterized as more widespread corruption within the Boston Licensing Board and its process for awarding liquor licenses.

In a closed-door meeting last week, the judge threatened Wilburn with contempt of court and jail time if he refuses to testify. Outside the courthouse, Wilburn acknowledged he had been told by the judge to think long and hard about his decision.

The government has video footage of the alleged transaction but no other eye witnesses.

Turner’s attorney said: “Mr. Turner didn’t knowingly do anything in exchange for any money.”