Daily Archives: January 25, 2011

Turner Sentenced To 3 Years In Bribe Case

Published January 25, 2011

Chuck Turner, whose career in public service swiftly ended with a corruption conviction, will serve three years in federal prison.

Chuck Turner (WBUR)

Chuck Turner (WBUR)

Turner, 70, must also serve three years probation. He was convicted in October 2010 of accepting a $1,000 bribe from an FBI informant and then lying to the authorities. He is to forfeit the $1,000.

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock on Tuesday ordered Turner to report to prison in 60 days, on March 25.

“It is the obligation of every elected official to be ethical and honest, and in this case, Mr. Turner was neither,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in a statement.

“Public corruption is more than a violation of the law, it erodes the public’s trust in the very system that was designed to protect us.”

Turner said he would appeal.

Undercover video footage, obtained by WBUR, showed the FBI informant, Ron Wilburn, passing something green, presumed to be money, to Turner.

At trial, Turner said he did not remember the 2007 exchange.

Turner’s sentencing was something of a “trial within a trial,” as prosecutors raised new charges of perjury before the judge. When Turner took the stand in his own defense, the government argued, he lied about his meeting with Wilburn. The judge agreed.

Turner again insisted his prosecution was racially motivated. Ortiz, the U.S. attorney, called that claim outrageous.

Turner’s prison sentence invalidates his lawsuit against the Boston City Council, which he filed after being expelled from the board in December 2010. Under Massachusetts law, incarcerated felons may not hold public office.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 33-41 months. Turner had asked for probation but no prison time.

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who was arrested in the same operation, pleaded guilty to accepting at least $23,500 in bribes. She will serve 42 months, or three-and-a-half years, in federal prison.

This is a developing story. WBUR’s David Boeri, at the federal courthouse, contributed reporting.

Kerry Introduces Bill To Strengthen Gun Laws

Published January 25, 2011

Sen. John Kerry, himself a hunting enthusiast, is taking steps to strengthen national gun laws after the mass shooting in Tucson.

Sen. John Kerry (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Sen. John Kerry

Legislation announced Tuesday would ban the possession or sale of high-capacity magazines. On Jan. 8, alleged Arizona shooter Jared Loughner is said to have used the magazine to fire 30 shots before stopping to reload.

Another  provision would ban firearm purchases at gun shows without a background check and would require registration of gun show promoters.

Said Kerry:

As a lifelong hunter, I know that no one is going to mess with the constitutional right to bear arms, but rights come with responsibilities, and criminals and the mentally unstable do not have a right to avoid background checks or carry military style assault weapons.

Massachusetts’ senior senator co-sponsored the legislation along with gun-control advocate Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

Local advocates are looking to President Obama to endorse some kind of gun control legislation in tonight’s State of the Union.

“The president has to set the tone, the goals, the programs, regarding eliminating illegal guns,” said New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, who is also president of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association. “I also think that, you know, the first order of business is for everyone to rally around the prohibition on the extended clips.”


Where They’re Sitting For SOTU

Published January 25, 2011

Surely everyone on Capitol Hill is scrambling to find his or her date tonight, as President Obama delivers his second State of the Union address. (The “first” one, right after inauguration, was actually the “fake SOTU” address. Remember?)

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has recommended politicians of both parties break with tradition and sit together. I called around to see where our 12 federal legislators plan to sit. Not all of them have responded.

Sen. John Kerry: He was coy. “Well, if all the dates haven’t been taken up, I’ll try to find someone to sit with — but I think the more important thing is frankly to come together not in where we sit, but where we vote,” he told WBUR’s Radio Boston.

Sen. Scott Brown: The Globe reports Brown will sit with Delaware Democrat Tom Carper.

Brown and Carper bonded last year during a congressional trip to overseas war zones, shortly after Brown was elected last January. During the trip, the two senators worked out in military gyms and had a late-night dinner at a Marriott in Islamabad, where they discussed their own military service, how they met their spouses, and their children (Brown has two daughters, Carper two sons).

Rep. Michael Capuano, 8th District: “Capuano doesn’t have plans to sit with anyone in particular this evening,” said Alison Mills, his spokeswoman. “He always stands in the back, and that’s what he plans to do tonight.”

Rep. Niki Tsongas, 5th District: Going alone.

Rep. Barney Frank, 4th District: Won’t be in attendance. Frank is in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Rep. Jim McGovern, 3rd District: No plans to pick a seat mate.

There is no seating chart, I’m told, but the Senate does get to reserve seats.

Update: I should do a better job reading the Globe, because apparently they had the same idea. Filling in the blanks:

Representative Richard E. Neal, a Springfield Democrat, is planning to sit with Representative Jim Duncan, a Tennessee Republican. Their offices are next to each other and they’ve been friends for years. Representative John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat, has arranged to sit with Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, according to Tierney’s office. Newcomer William R. Keating, a Quincy Democrat, has no plans to sit with any particular Republican.

Job Seekers: Google Google Jobs

Published January 25, 2011

A Google executive, in a blog post Tuesday, declares:

I am excited about 2011—because it will be our biggest hiring year in company history.

The company’s rapidly expanding Cambridge office (at Kendall/MIT) has 21 job openings.

Turner’s Crime Might Have Been His Conduct

Published January 25, 2011

Chuck Turner (WBUR)

Chuck Turner (WBUR)

On this day of sentencing for ex-City Councilor Chuck Turner, WBUR’s David Boeri reports on an angle that has caught my attention: Why is the government essentially punishing Turner for pleading not guilty?

In his federal corruption trial, Turner took the stand in his own defense, despite his attorney’s pleas to the contrary. Along the way Turner launched a campaign to shame the government for its efforts — as he saw it — to “target and eliminate black officials.” Turner called the FBI an “evil institution.”

From the government’s sentencing recommendations:

While his public campaign has pandered to a few faithful supporters, he could hardly have done more to promote the public’s cynicism about elected officials and to erode trust in the rule of law. His post-indictment conduct has amplified the crimes for which he was charged.  He has sought to undermine the integrity of the judicial process. As a result, Turner is uniquely undeserving of a downward departure or deviation.

In other words: Turner insulted the system, so he shouldn’t get off easy. The memorandum recommends up to 41 months in prison.

That’s the same sentence dished out to ex-state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who was busted in the same case on more substantial charges. The two personalities couldn’t be more opposite: She resigned her seat, pleaded guilty and begged a judge for mercy.

A defendant’s conduct does not determine his guilt or innocence, but oftentimes it does determine punishment.

What’s novel is that prosecutors now accuse Turner of perjury for testifying he did not remember meeting FBI informant Ron Wilburn, who handed Turner the fake bribe he was convicted of taking.

Boeri interviewed Boston defense attorney Harvey Silverglate:

“It is your constitutional right to plead not guilty,” Silverglate said. “What the government is doing in this sentencing memorandum is suggesting that Turner, for insisting he is not guilty, should be punished extra severely. That’s highly improper.”


Turner’s testimony was considered a disaster that led to his conviction. Prosecutors call it “perjury” and want the judge to punish and thereby “condemn Turner’s contempt for the court as an institution.”

“Well, the government claims it is perjury. However, it is perfectly understandable how somebody like Turner, who sees in some days dozens of people, would not remember seeing Wilburn,” Silverglate said.

Turner is asking for supervised probation, no prison time. That would let Turner proceed with his lawsuit against the City Council for expelling him from the board.

Chuck Turner might say the government is not playing fair — but at the end of the day, he is on the losing side of this war.

Tuesday: Harvard And Tufts, Together At Last

Published January 25, 2011

Good morning! Another day of snow, up to 1 inch, awaits us on this Tuesday.

Two of the state’s largest health insurance companies are planning to merge. Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts Health Plan would join to become a major competitor to Blue Cross Blue Shield. It’s unclear whether this could be good or bad for consumers like you and me. The Globe reports; WBUR’s Martha Bebinger analyzes.

It’s Sentencing Day for ex-City Councilor Chuck Turner, who faces up to three-and-a-half years in federal prison. WBUR’s David Boeri has a preview.

Jeff Perry, the former police officer dogged by 19-year-old allegations from an illegal strip search, has been named a special sheriff in Barnstable County, which makes him second in command. Perry lost his hard-fought bid to represent the 10th Congressional District.

A burst water pipe caused the evacuation of a Chinatown apartment complex, not to mention a lot of damage, on a very cold Monday night.