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Turner Sentenced To Prison, But Goes Out With Defiance

This article is more than 12 years old.

Saying he wanted to send a message about political corruption, a federal judge who once prosecuted political corruption sentenced Chuck Turner to three years in prison Tuesday.

The former Boston city councilor, who was ousted from office after his conviction in October, is scheduled to report in March.

But Turner is going out with defiance.

Court ended the same way it began, with a camp of followers cheering for Turner. The beginning and the end were the high points. But in-between, the judge sent him to prison.

The government was thrilled.

"Mr. Turner is no Rosa Parks. He's a convicted felon who took a bribe and then compounded that offense by lying about it repeatedly," said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

"If I die in prison, I want an autopsy because we are at war with the government."

Chuck Turner, former Boston city councilor

That Rosa Parks line was intended to draw blood because from the start, Turner has called his prosecution a racially motivated witch hunt. And he inflamed the prosecution, Ortiz said.

"Today I'd like to set the record straight. First, this investigation and this prosecution were never about race," Ortiz said.

When the assistant U.S. attorney said the same thing during the hearing, Turner supporters erupted in jeers, provoking the judge to warn them that he'd clear the courtroom.

For Judge Douglas Woodlock, the focus of the hearing wasn't on Turner's fire and brimstone, but on his testimony after he took the stand during his trial.

The government argued that Turner should get a stiffer sentence because he'd lied when he testified he couldn't remember ever meeting or taking any money from an FBI-recruited developer. That witness had secretly videotaped himself giving something green to Turner.

"I didn't lie. I told the truth," Turner said.

And Turner's lawyer pointed out that there was no basis in fact that Turner ever took $1,000. How much, if any money, changed hands was never seen on tape, and the FBI had never checked the witness's pockets before or after the exchange.

"When someone is innocent and declares their innocence, they're in trouble," Turner said.

But Woodlock had no such trouble resolving the inconsistencies. As the finder of facts, he said, his job is "to make an imaginary projection into events."

"If someone put $1,000 in your hand, you'd remember it. Anyone would remember it," he said.

"Someone like Mr. Turner, who used to speak truth to power, must confront the truth about himself. And the truth about Mr. Turner is that he betrayed the public trust and continued to lie about it."

Turner had smiled contemptuously as the federal prosecutor told the judge the defendant had lied on the stand to "save his own skin." Now, Turner shook his head, and glumly leaned forward while the judge concluded that his testimony at trial had been "ludicrous," "surreal" and "perjurious."

"And the judge said he was very comfortable giving more time to me because I'd lied on the stand. I didn't lie," Turner said.

Thirty-six months in prison, the judge ordered, along with 36 months of supervised release, and a further indignity for Turner — he has to pay the government the $1,000 the FBI gave the witness to offer him as a bribe.

"We have a Justice Department that isn't about justice but about political persecution," Turner said.

Three years of silence from Turner may seem a long time, but he said he's coming back. And, "If I die in prison," he said, "I want an autopsy because we are at war with the government."

This program aired on January 26, 2011.

David Boeri Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.



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