A Weak Defense Tries To Poke Holes In A Weak Offense

Published October 28, 2010

Closing arguments are underway in the corruption trial of Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner. A verdict could be reached as early as Friday. WBUR’s David Boeri files his latest dispatch from federal court. –AP


The key for me today will be the closing arguments by the defense. The defense put on no witnesses, of course. Chuck Turner, you ask? Well, he put himself on the stand.

“Why didn’t the defense ask him more questions after the prosecution was through with him?” a reporter asked outside the courtroom yesterday, after the defense said it had no further questions. The question was on par with asking, “Why don’t we let kids play with guns?”

In pursuing what he called his duty as a public official to testify, Turner had played punching bag to the prosecutor for two days. His credibility seemed as drained as his memory of Ron Wilburn, the government informant who gave him something — something Turner said he couldn’t remember. Something the prosecutor delighted in describing as a big, green wad.

So, having called no witnesses, and despite the seemingly counter-productive exertion of its own defendant, attorney Barry Wilson will make his case that the government hasn’t proven theirs. He does have material to work with. There is that notorious videotape. Though it shows something changing hands, it’s vague what it is. Wilburn says he gave Turner money.

But Wilburn never counted it, so he can’t say how much. The government claims it was $1,000. Unbelievably, though, the FBI agents never frisked their informant before or after he gave what he gave to Turner, so the government doesn’t know whether Wilburn gave him all the money — or any of it. The defense might suggest Wilburn skimmed most of it.

And there’s no recording of the phone calls, which, the witness says, set up the meeting in which he allegedly gave Turner money. This despite the witnesses having regularly and secretly recorded phone calls from the targets.

Did Turner extort the money? If he did, it was with none of the bluster and bluntness of the classic shakedown artists who normally go to trial. It is in the matter of creating doubt among the jurors — or just one — that the defense will delve.

Barry Wilson has his work cut out for him.