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Wilkerson Will Plead Guilty Thursday03:58
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Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson is headed to court Thursday, where she is expected to plead guilty to federal corruption charges.

This is an about-face for Wilkerson, who, until now, maintained that she was innocent of corruption charges. In fact, she accused the U.S. attorney's office of prosecuting her so that she wouldn't be re-elected.

But Wilkerson was scheduled to go on trial later this month, in what was likely to be a high-profile and withering trial. She faced decades in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for allegedly taking more than $23,000 in bribes for securing a liquor license and paying the way for a real estate development in Roxbury.

She is expected to get a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Wilkerson's 2008 arrest for those bribery charges weren't the start of her trouble, but they came as a shock because she had been considered a rising star of the Democratic party.

Once a lawyer for the NAACP, Wilkerson was elected to the state Senate in 1993 to represent Roxbury and the South End. For much of that time, she was the only African-American in the Senate. She championed liberal causes like gay marriage — even when the black pastors in her district were fighting against it.

But Wilkerson's political future started to dim when she got into trouble in 1997 for federal tax evasion. There were other financial problems, too.

At that point, it was clear she wouldn't move beyond the state Senate, but her constituents kept her there until 2008, when she was defeated in a primary by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. Wilkerson was running as an independent when she was arrested.

Since that time, Wilkerson has been living her with her adult sons, unable to get a new job.

Wilkerson's expected plea deal will not affect City Councilor Chuck Turner, who faces charges in a related case. Turner says he does not plan to plead guilty.

This program aired on June 3, 2010.

Bianca Vázquez Toness Twitter Reporter
Bianca Vázquez Toness was formerly a report for WBUR.

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