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Federal prosecutors say it is cash that's changing hands in the video they claim is proof Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner took a bribe in August 2007. But because you can't clearly see the money, the prosecution needed its key witness to say what it was.
You knew things were going well for the defense when Turner, who had said he wasn't going to talk during the trial, was talking again. By the end of the day the sunny mood would turn cloudy, but before court started, Turner said he was thrilled the FBI informant who secretly recorded him was going to appear.
Wilburn had threatened not to testify even if he had to pay the price.
"Going to jail, fellas," Wilburn said a few days ago while walking into federal court.
No, he wasn't.
The 71-year-old Wilburn came into the courtroom Thursday morning answering questions faster than the Acela Express.
"Here's the way it is," he started. "I'm not going to lie about anything."
The prosecutor and the judge had to instruct him to wait for the questions.
"I was asked by the FBI, did I have anything on Turner? I said, 'rumors and innuendos;' I couldn't prove it," Wilburn said.
Wilburn had signed a personal services contract with the FBI, for $30,000. It wasn't a happy marriage.
"Here's the deal," he said. "You give me a device. I don't know how to use it and it just didn't work. And they didn't train me.
"They said, 'Here's the money;' I never saw anyone count it. They said it was $1,000."
So there he was the afternoon of August 3, 2007 with the cash in his pocket and the secret camera. As his videotape was played in court again Thursday, Wilburn saw it for the first time. On the tape, the alleged bribe-giver enters the red zone.
"And I told her I'd talk to you and, I was going to stop by and show my gratitude and then, after the hearing I want to show my gratitude again," Wilburn said in the video.
At that point in the video comes an awkward handshake and something that appears to change hands from Wilburn to Turner.
"You take the wife to dinner and have some fun," Wilburn said in the video.
"That's me giving the money," Wilburn testified. And the prosecution had what it hoped for: the crucial witness saying that what you're not sure you saw in the video was indeed money.
The prosecutor asked why Wilburn hadn't held the cash in front of Turner and the camera before giving it to him.
"I couldn't show him the money. There was someone nearby," Wilburn said. "I gave him the money, absolutely."
"Did Mr. Turner ever call you back...to offer it back?" the prosecutor asked.
"No," Wilburn said.
"Tell you it was a mistake?"
"Anyone ever send this money back to you?"
"Are you kidding?"
So what was in Turner's hand if not cash? Outside the courthouse, that was the overriding question. He dodged it.
"What do you think was there?" asked Turner's defense attorney, Barry Wilson.
"Mr. Wilburn said it was money. Was it?" asked a reporter.
"You saw it," Wilson said.
"Councilor, we see the video today and now the witness says he did give you cash," another reporter said.
"You know, a lot of people say a lot of things in that court. We don't know what happens," Wilson said. "I told you, we haven't seen the fat lady yet. You people, you know what I mean. They got to slow it down, speed it up."
Wilson's attitude was "let me at him."
"I think we had a few inconsistencies and I think we got some wide openings that everyone ought to be paying attention to," he said.
Wilburn returns to the stand Friday. And maybe then we'll see the fat lady, too.
This program aired on October 22, 2010.
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