FBI agents arrested a Boston city councilor Friday after he was allegedly videotaped taking a $1,000 bribe from an undercover agent during an investigation into corruption at City Hall and the Massachusetts Statehouse.
Chuck Turner was taken into custody about 7 a.m. at City Hall, less than a month after his records were subpoenaed as part of the investigation into former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who was charged last month after the FBI said she was photographed stuffing bribe money into her sweater.
Turner was charged with attempted extortion and making false statements for allegedly accepting $1,000 from the same confidential informant who said he paid bribes to Wilkerson in exchange for help getting a liquor license for a Boston nightclub.
Turner was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond after a pretrial hearing in U.S. District Court in Worcester later Tuesday. He is prohibited from traveling out of state without permission and destroying documents related to the case.
Turner shook his head as the charges were read against him. Supporters who attended the pretrial hearing shouted, "We love you."
"I am absolutely and positively sure that a jury of my peers will come to the conclusion that I am innocent," Turner said outside the courthouse.
After he spoke, his supporters chanted "Chuck" and waved signs, including one that said: "Turner stands for quality."
An affidavit said Turner was taped in August 2007 taking a wad of money from the informant while in his district office, then denied the payment when confronted by FBI agents on the day Wilkerson was arrested.
The informant attempted to make a second payment in September 2007 just outside the City Council chamber but could not arrange time alone with Turner, according to the affidavit.
Turner told the FBI agents after Wilkerson's arrest that corruption was pervasive among politicians.
"If you took out all corrupt politicians, you'd take out 90 percent and be left with us 10 percent," he said.
The affidavit summarized what an FBI agent said was "a portion of a covert investigation into the criminal activities of Turner and others." It said more than 150 recordings were made as part of the investigation.
A similar FBI affidavit filed in connection with Wilkerson's case refers to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, City Council President Maureen Feeney, Senate President Therese Murray and other city and state officials - most of whom have acknowledged receiving subpoenas in the case. Menino, Feeney and Murray have denied any wrongdoing.
U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said Friday that Menino, other members of the Legislature and the governor's office were not targets of the ongoing probe. He refused to expand beyond that when asked about City Hall employees or the city's Licensing Board, which includes gubernatorial appointees.
"This always casts a cloud over governments," Menino told reporters. "It's frustrating for me. It's very frustrating for me. We are supposed to be here to help people."
Feeney called a special council meeting for Monday and said she was removing Turner from his committee assignments.
"I remain outraged at the recent disgrace brought to public service," Feeney said in a statement. "The public is right to expect more from its elected leaders. We must - and we will - work hard to restore their confidence."
Turner accused the FBI of asked Feeney to cut off his access to his computer and turn off his city cell phone. But a Feeney spokesman said they have received no such request.
Turner said he should not be pushed off the council.
"The only people (that can decide) are my constituents," Turner said.
Wilkerson was arrested Oct. 28 and indicated Tuesday on eight counts surrounding allegations she accepted $23,500 in bribes for arranging a liquor license and land transfer for an FBI informant and undercover agents she thought were businessmen. The Boston Democrat was the only black member of the state Senate before resigning Wednesday under the threat of expulsion by her colleagues.
In the FBI affidavit associated with her case, undercover agents are described as asking a Wilkerson associate "whether anyone needed to be paid to earn their support."
The associate said Wilkerson deserved "the biggest chunk," but that Wilkerson's House representative deserved $5,000 and other "small timers" she "orchestrates" - including a second House member and a Boston city councilor - should be paid $1,000.
None of the individuals was named, and the affidavit did not say if the money was ever paid. Wilkerson is represented in the House by Rep. Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat who also received a subpoena.
Turner, Wilkerson's city councilor, is a fellow African-American who is a Harvard-educated member of the Green-Rainbow Party. The veteran community activist has been on the City Council since 2000. His district includes the neighborhood of Roxbury as well as parts of the Fenway, South End and Dorchester areas.
A staunch Wilkerson supporter, Turner emerged as a vocal critic of her recent election opponent and complained about the FBI in the aftermath of her arrest.
He recently told a Boston newspaper that an undercover agent came to his office last year wearing a hidden video camera as part of the bureau's investigation of Wilkerson.
"I imagine that they were trying to see if I was going to take a bribe," Turner told the Jamaica Plain Gazette, adding he never has. He suggested the only reason for such a visit would be to "entrap" him.
Sullivan, who is white, bristled when asked whether he was concerned race might be seen as playing a role in the case.
"The affidavit lays out the conduct; it's the conduct of two individuals," he said. "We're blind to color when it comes to the evidence."
This program aired on November 21, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.