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Chuck Turner, activist and city councilor, dead at 78

Turner

City Councilor Kim Janey reports that Chuck Turner, who once held the District 7 seat she now does, died today:

Our community is better because of your activism and the lessons you shared. We owe you a debt of gratitude. May you be received by the ancestors. Rest well, my friend.

Turner served as the city councilor for Roxbury between 1999 and 2010, when the council voted to expel him following a conviction for taking a bribe.

Born in Cincinnati, he came to the Boston area to attend Harvard - and then stayed, becoming a community activist in the South End in the mid-1960s, where he worked on issues from gentrification to increasing the numbers of black in the local construction trades.

Turner's legacy - Bay State Banner.
More on his life.

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Comments

He was the least-corrupt corrupt politician out there. The cash bribe he took seemed more to be an escape from paperwork than a way to enrich himself.

And he was the only councilor to vote against the overly generous, questionably arbitrated firefighter's contract.

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To say he was the least corrupt is a stretch. What he got caught for seems like a small thing compared to the corruption going with our elected officials and all the development in the city. People in Roxbury who wanted to get their business off the ground or needed help navigating a city hall process might feel differently. He was all pay to play.

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Big ol' "citation needed"

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When you start doing that, I’ll think about it.

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Here's a link to you stating something with absolutely no evidence. Let me know if you need any more here. Otherwise, please let us know what you see as "the corruption going with our elected officials" (which should be pretty easy to answer if its so obvious).

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No citation is necessary. I knew Chuck Turner.

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i knew Chuck long before he entered electoral politics.
he fought the extension of the neighb'd-destroying Inner-Belt Hwy in the '70s; he demanded development policies that would benefit all Boston residents, regardless of race or gender in the '80s; he resisted efforts to privatize Boston's public schools, while also addressing issues of persistent under-resourcing and segregation; he opposed the destruction of bilingual ed, which resulted in a generation of under-served language-minorities, and supported the due-process rights of immigrants and refugees; and he hosted a mo'ly public policy forum (the District-7 Round Tables) engaging ordinary city residents in discussion/debate and mobilization around issues and conditions impacting our communities.
i could go on, but you get my drift: Chuck Turner was an asset to City of Boston, and most especially for its poorest, brownest and most language-diverse residents.
that said, whereas a string of white Boston politicians were found guilty of gross malfeasance while in office, Chuck's failure to properly report a campaign donation -- which would normally result in a fine -- was blown into a career-ending felony offense w/a 3-year prison sentence. yet, doesn't a bribery charge hinge on proof of some tangible deliverable? the Fed'l prosecutor's case claimed that Chuck was offered $1000 to influence the award of a liquor license to a black entrepreneur. conveniently obscured, was the obvious fact that City Council is not vested w/ authority to grant or deny a liquor license issued by a state-mandated commission. one might reasonably ask what outcome was the person allegedly offering the bribe expecting from a mere councilman?
in short, pay-to-play was never Chuck's forte; claims to the contrary are highly suspect -- especially since, if such a pattern of corruption existed, the Feds would've been all over it and the Boston Herald would've had a field day.
Chuck made a foolish mistake and paid an overly-stiff price. even his detractors know that a single error in judgement will hardly outweigh the sacrifices he made to serve our city -- to insist otherwise suggests an obsession w/ something other than the truth. Ω

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Chuck supported community efforts from the 70’s until he died: jobs, sanitation, transportation, human rights. That’s his legacy. Not a $1,000 entrapment scheme.

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Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt politician of our lifetime. On the local level, DiMasi, Menino, Wilkerson come to mind.

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Your English is really improving. Was it part of your goals and objectives this year?

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Must have been, trying to make the trolling less obvious.

I’m curious, do they pay Carmella in rubles or dollars?

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does your visceral hatred for Democrats have to do with anything?

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Just because I hate corruption doesn’t mean I hate democrats. I know it seems like the two go hand in hand but that’s not always the case.

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You must be absolutely incensed about the "president."

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I’m incensed that our president is once again beating the left wing lunatics? Not incensed at all.

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beating them or cheating them?

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Also, look up "treason". Then say that Trump isn't the most corrupt and traitorous president in history with a straight face.

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Adam, I’m sorry I got all these snowflakes triggered.

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Citations?

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Heck - look up "emollients".
If that was a clause in the Constitution, he'd probably have violated that, too. He tries some oily stuff (not very well, however) but he's not soothing to the skin.

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I would wonder how someone could be investigated for about 30 years and no actual crimes discovered, but that is not what this story is about.

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A tattletale, maybe? That’s how Whitey did it.

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Whitey was investigated less than Hillary Clinton, and he was charged and convicted of murder.

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Wasn't having a whole thread deleted from a previous posting enough?

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Somebody take her keyboard away before the cops show up again!

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Speaking of corrupt politicians, Mayor Dean Mazzarella of Leominster testified for the City of Boston on that arbitration. He was caught in so many lies that the arbitrator punished the city for it. The arbitrator might have violated ethical rules in doing so. I remember the firefighters wanted 19% and Menino forced it to arbitration and the firefighters ended up with 21%.

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I didn't always agree with him, but the times I did made me really appreciate what made him tick. Sure, some will remember that one misdeed for which he paid, but he did work hard for decades for those who felt left out. I mean, he was one of the leaders of the opposition to the Southwest Expressway, that's how long he was doing his thing.

He'll be missed. Good to see him being an activist to about the end (Nubian Square? Oh, brother.)

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He took cash for services. A straight up bribe. Pay to play.

It's like the guy who gets lugged for the DWI and tells you that he only did it once and, damn, that just happened to be the time there he got caught. Not very damned likely.

And let's not forget the story (dutifully reported by The Boston Globe, with photos) he broke, with photos, about US troops raping Iraqi women. Except it turned out to be a hoax and the photos were bogus, from a porn site.

He was an asshat and embarrassment. Let's not pretend otherwise just because he died.

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And even during his last weird campaign, I would have said the same things I did last night.

As for that Iraq thing, again, I disagreed with him more often than agreed with him, by a country mile, but I could see that his zeal did not come from a bad place. He really did care about things other than himself. I would not say the same about other politicians.

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That’s a defense for lying about American soldiers? “My zeal comes from a good place.”?

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But here's the thing, some people do stupid things to make a point. His point was that, according to reports in the mainstream media at the time, soldiers in Iraq looked to be involved in inhumane treatment of prisoners. Turner, probably as internet savvy as yourself, googled such a topic in order to find images to demonstrate his point. In the end, he somehow grabbed some fictional porn. In the current age of social media, politicians from all ends of the spectrum, and occasionally the center, accidentally do similar things. Doesn't change that he, in the end, cared about how Americans were treating Iraqis.

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So, if I see a guy come into a bank with a gun on his hip being concealed by a jacket, who seemingly looks to be up to no good, and I decide to beat the shit out of him, if he turns out to be a police detective who has come in to cash his check, is it ok because I meant well? Sorry for the run-on sentence that I’ll surely be called out for.

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I do not recall Chuck Turner ever beating anyone up about the Iraq War. His actions were purely misguided speech.

Now, if you yelled "this man has a gun," and the bank goes into a panic, and in fact the detective in fact only had an empty holster because, well, he didn't want to go into a bank with his gun, that would be your example, as an empty holster isn't a gun.

By any chance, do you ever call the police when there are "suspicious youths" walking through your neighborhood?

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No, I beat the shit out of them.

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That whole bribe thing never added up. Turner was a lot of things but not a guy who would take a bribe. Seemed pretty obvious he interpreted it as a campaign contribution if he even knew what was in that envelope at all. Should have reported it sure. Federal crime? Cmon.

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The whacked out city council of today would not have kicked him off the council for taking bribes. They would’ve called him a hero. Very sad that these are the types of people that we’re told we should aspire to be like. May he rest in peace.

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The council has improved slightly over the years. There's less tolerance (if just slightly) for these sorts of games.

The Mayor would be the one to turn a blind eye.

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Please, share with the rest of the class.

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I tried telling someone the sky is blue but he didn’t believe me. I had no evidence.

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The vote to expel him included Ayanna Pressley and Felix Arroyo Jr. Both pretty stalwart progressives at the time and fellow elected officials of color. So, your line of thinking doesn't match the actual facts of what happened then and would likely happen now to a councilor convicted like Turner was. He'd be booted off just the same. The Council is a much more serious body now than it used to be, seems like you just don't like progressive politics.

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He was bold
He was bald

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Don’t forget, “Bright”.

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But he was a scumbag. Sorry Mom.

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Chuck was once ticketed by the city for not having his sidewalk shoveled after a snow storm. Chuck’s reasoning for not shoveling was that shoveling snow is a slave activity and he would not take part in it. I would’ve given him a pass had he complained that his age and health should preclude him from shoveling, but Ol’ Chuck always went for the race card.

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You hated the man. You've made your point. You don't have to keep piling on.

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He’s actually one of the few politicians who once told me the truth about something. I didn’t hate him, but I was probably in disagreement with him 85% of the time.

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He told you that you're a lonely garbage person lashing out in hatred at the holidays because of your own terrible life?

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No, he didn’t say that. He told me he does what he does because he knows it will get him re-elected, even if it’s not morally right.

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Remember the time he said he had video of American soldiers raping an Iraqi prisoner and it was actually a regular porn video? Hahahah.

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is really not necessary. Get some decaf.

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Was that story not true?

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Carmella don't you have some unwanted Christmas presents to return, breakfast dishes to wash, shit to stir elsewhere?

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The attempted coup d'etat and overthrow of President Trump based on Hillary's fake Russian dossier is just an outgrowth of earlier frauds like Chuck Turner and the other agitator responsible for Nubian Square who almost pulled off a US Military-POW sex abuse scandal intended to topple President G.W. Bush. Of course Turner's "evidence" was a crude sex tape with actors dressed in military garb. Turner knew it would be catnip for the media and "too good to check," and almost got away with it. This near scandal funded on a shoe-string budget set an early example of modern-day Democrat dirty tricks. Chuck wrote the book or at least helped with the script. I didn't know he was Harvard educated but that explains a lot. His mischief, antics and Biden-like criminality were ahead of their time for his beloved Democrat party. He'll be missed, even if for the sheer entertainment value alone.

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posting enough today as Carmella?

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That guy is much more articulate than me. Although, FungWah might be upset that he didn’t provide citations and footnotes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1hZq3RBY9E

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If you research the basis of the above you find that Chuck was NOT a member of a "major" political party. This may explain his lack of protection (or his targeting) from the political establishment about the "bribery".

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With sadness, I must write a comment on Chuck Turner at a time when so many people are gloating at his misfortune.

Chuck was one of the most honest and courageous public official I have known. He was dedicated to the welfare of his community; he understood and fought the discrimination and the corruption that perpetuated its disadvantage, in every way he could. It is a bitter irony that he was imprisoned on totally phony, trumped-up bribery charges by the FBI, while so many political grifters in the City and State have gone free and been rewarded for their complicity in real crimes against the people (some of which I brought to Federal and State authorities and were ignored).

I researched the FBI’s case against Chuck carefully. I read all the transcripts of court hearings and depositions and evidentiary documents. I interviewed Chuck. I wrote four articles on his case (see below), because I concluded that the charges were false: there had been no bribe solicited or accepted in exchange for influence-peddling for a liquor license.

Further, the amount of money given to Chuck at the secretly filmed meeting with a paid FBI informant (even if it had been the full $1,000 cited in the accusation) was -– as the later remorseful informant, a black night-club owner, later said, no more than he and his wife could have legally contributed to Chuck’s campaign. The FBI normally films a count-out of money they give informants to offer as bribes, but, inexplicably did not do so in this case; there is reason to believe that the informant skimmed off most of it; he handed Chuck an uncounted wad of bills, saying, “Here, take your wife out to dinner.” I asked Chuck why he didn’t suspect this contribution at the time, or count it out on the spot, or get his treasurer to record it; he answered that he had no reason to suspect it because he routinely got small cash campaign contributions from community people (often folded up like that because the giver was embarrassed to be able to give so little, which was why he didn’t look at it – that’s what he called the “preacher’s handshake” – token rather than transaction), and didn’t even remember it when he later emptied his pocket, where he found pretty much the amount that neighborhood folks might have given him – enough, as the informant said, for dinner in Roxbury. He wasn’t selling anything of value, and he didn’t expect anything of value. His “favor” was a plan to call for Council hearings on liquor license discrimination in the black neighborhoods, a long-standing problem for local restaurants, of which he thought this was an instance.

After the conviction, I attended the appeal hearing. I was amazed to hear one of the judges ask the FBI lawyer, at the closing arguments, “If the defendant had recorded this money as a campaign contribution, would you still have a case?” And the lawyer said, “No.” So the judges knew that this was really a very minor campaign finance offense, deserving perhaps a small fine, but chose to imprison Chuck anyway. Why? Why?

I was shocked, yet not surprised, at the subversion of justice by the justice system, having experienced it myself in lawsuits relating to the destruction of the Gaiety Theater, and to the Boston City Council’s egregious and repeated violations of the Open Meeting Law – when Chuck had the courage to provide an affidavit supporting the case against the Council’s transgressions.

I came to believe that Chuck was right in accusing the FBI (which framed him, ostensibly, to extort information from him about Senator Diane Wilkerson, then under bribery investigation) of setting him up in revenge for his past activism. He had no information to trade for his freedom (he and Wilkerson had fallen out and he knew nothing about her activities at that time), but the FBI, having no real crimes to use in leverage against him, created one – or the appearance of one -- so they could nab him regardless of the Wilkerson outcome. Read this informative account: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/2011/01/03/the-scapegoats/

I hope that someday, the shameful behavior of the contemptible, cowardly and racist City Councilors and other City and State officials who were spitefully and gleefully complicit in his downfall, will be fully exposed. I hope that someday, there will be a full confession from the FBI officials who persecuted and prosecuted him, and stole years of his life, years during which he could have done some good for people who needed it, stole them for nothing, nothing at all.

Roxbury’s future in the "post-racial" era
by Shirley Kressel
South End News, contributing writer
Wednesday Mar 16, 2011

The race for Chuck Turner’s District 7 City Council seat has been fraught with bitter ironies and troubling questions about the future of Boston’s black community.

As the media have amply reported, Senator Dianne Wilkerson and City Councilor Chuck Turner, long-time black leaders, have recently been sent to prison for accepting money from a paid FBI informant in a liquor-license imbroglio. What does this signify for their fragile community?

The Council candidates, both black men, represent different visions for the District. Cornell Mills is the son of Wilkerson, who broke the color barrier at the state senate in 1993 and pursued an activist legislative career, while Tito Jackson, son of a labor-rights activist, is endorsed by Turner, an old-school firebrand. Interestingly, Mills echoes Turner’s spirit of fighting to protect the poor and disadvantaged, while Jackson pushes further Wilkerson’s talk about business incentives to attract job creation and developers’ gifts to the community.

Jackson has enjoyed far more funding and voter support. However, his experience is in mainstream politics and his campaign chest is filled heavily by white contributors and business interests outside the district. This has sparked concerns about the dilution of the black community’s power to defend against economic and political exploitation.

Indeed, some suspect a larger strategy to neutralize minority defenses against discriminatory governmental policies.

On March 6, I attended a forum in Roxbury titled, "The Attack on Black Leadership: Is there an ongoing effort by the US Government to destabilize the black community by targeting its leadership?" In impromptu remarks, Wilkerson talked about documents she had read indicating that the FBI had been targeting her and Turner for seven years, looking for reasons to prosecute them. Finding none, she said, the Bureau finally hired a black informant to bait them with money.

If her account is accurate, it is extremely alarming. It is at least suspicious that in the FBI’s lengthy investigation of the license issue, only two black officials were (literally) "caught," leaving unbaited and uncharged seven white officials implicated by FBI documents. Turner accused the US Attorney of racial bias and, because there was no evidence of previous wrongdoing by him to constitute probable cause, entrapment. The FBI informant, a black man, expressed anger at this apparently biased outcome and tried to refuse to testify at Turner’s trial.

This week, I came across a 2003 South End News bit on now-deceased City Councilor Jimmy Kelly, reporting his acceptance of unlawful financial contributions: "Infractions included accepting individual contributions over the $500 limit and accepting corporate contributions, which is not allowed at the city level." The full report (pdf) at the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) website listed numerous violations. Kelly paid a $1,000 fine and made a charity donation of $7,500, equaling the contributions he got from business corporations, excess contributions, excess cash contributions, and money from a federal PAC. The matter was never sent to the Attorney General for further action.

Kelly was proven to have committed financial violations worth about $11,000. He simply settled up financially, with no criminal prosecution.

Turner was never proven committing any offenses -- before the FBI created the appearance of one. The informant himself later told the Boston Globe that the money (an amount the FBI said, but never proved, was $1,000) that he handed unbidden to a "naïve" Turner while expressing his "gratitude" (with these words, turning Turner’s scheduling of a hearing on licensing discrimination into a crime, as the FBI instructed), "could have been a gift or a campaign donation." As a contribution reporting error with no criminal intent, a civil fine would have ended the story. Instead: felony conviction and three years in federal prison.

Unlike Kelly, Turner’s case was all over the media, inflaming a wave of public venom. The City Council enacted an ordinance to expel him. The two young new minority Councilors, Felix Arroyo, Jr. and Ayanna Pressley, cited him as their mentor as they voted him out.

Why such disparate fates?

Perhaps the answer lies in a Boston Globe editorial: "Turner... isn’t a venal man. ... But he has spread unreality among his supporters for decades. And that may be his greatest crime. In a Boston neighborhood that so desperately needs sensible leadership to address crime, joblessness, and poor education, Turner has fed his constituents a steady diet of political fantasy." Do our media leaders believe that Turner’s punishment for an unproven bribe was justified by his discomfiting politics? The newspapers endorsed Jackson; is he their "sensible leader" -- bringing practical compromises to counter Turner’s audacity of unbending aspirations?

Selective justice is a great injustice, and one well known to the black community. What really happened here? And what will be the impact on a District ripe for -- or vulnerable to -- radical change?

Shirley Kressel is a landscape architect and urban designer, and one of the founders of the Alliance of Boston Neighborhoods.

Pursuing justice at City Hall
by Shirley Kressel
South End News, contributing writer
Wednesday Nov 17, 2010

A black businessman, trying to expose the local pay-to-play culture, has ended up a paid FBI informant, exposed and betrayed by the federal government, and forced to testify, however reluctantly, against City Councilor Chuck Turner in a liquor licensing investigation. A jury found Turner guilty of bribery and extortion.

City Councilors have no power over liquor licenses, so charges of bribery and extortion are puzzling. According to the Boston Globe, Turner, learning about the businessman’s difficulty in getting a license, scheduled a hearing on the lack of licenses in black neighborhoods. Then the FBI paid the informant to hand Turner money, which Turner had neither requested nor expected, to see if they could make him a criminal (why did the FBI spend agency resources on this, when there were already so many other named suspects to chase?). The informant told the Boston Globe in 2009 that Turner was "naïve," "not a thief, but a victim of circumstance." But the court proceedings excluded circumstance - intent, impact, the concept of entrapment - allowing only consideration of whether money changed hands.

It appears to be, at worst, an unlawful gift that Turner should have returned - yes, it’s a bad thing to do, but let’s get some perspective. For this one mistake, after a career of community service, Turner faces, potentially, life imprisonment. As a Boston Phoenix story puts it: "In unleashing its prosecutorial might against a local elected official who enjoyed more profile than power, the United States Department of Justice exhibited a lack of proportion that was...an insult to common sense."

I’ve spent lots of time among the City Councilors in my 15 activist years. Turner is one of the few to whom I could turn to call a hearing, to request public disclosure of information, to speak up against wrongdoing. He provided an affidavit supporting the citizens’ Open Meeting Law suit against the Council (I was a plaintiff). He fought the bio-terror lab, led workers’ organization and CORI reform, and held neighborhood meetings, some of which I attended, to discuss community problems. He voted against an unlawfully legislated City Council pay raise in 2006, and against a firefighters’ pay raise for drug and alcohol testing in 2010.

Chuck Turner has his flaws - the gravest of which, perhaps, is not to have systematically exposed City Council roguery. But on balance, he’s probably done more good than most of the others. Now, that august body contemplates an ouster vote. They are pensive -- and with good reason.

The other Councilors know how lucky they are that they aren’t the ones facing judgment -- because most of them have committed worse transgressions against the public, although none involving blobs labeled "cash" on film.

A tiny sample:

• Council President Michael Ross, now leading this justice brigade, fixed 35 of his own parking tickets (totaling, coincidentally, $1,000).

• Ross led Council to allow destruction of the historic Gaiety Theatre, and let the BRA take from the taxpayers millions in Red Sox payments for privatizing Yawkey Way.

• The Council wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees falsely defending their 11 violations of the Open Meeting Law.

• They unwittingly perpetuated the BRA’s eminent domain powers, used to confiscate city property.

• Councilor Maureen Feeney, in a secretive meeting, arranged to hire a staffer, for hundreds of thousands of dollars, to write a report recommending exemption of City Council from the Open Meeting Law.

• They voted to give away tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to big corporations (e.g., Liberty Mutual, Manulife, JPMorganChase)

• They gave staff bonus pay (which the Ethics Commission declared illegal -- but refused to prosecute).

• They let the mayor sell City land to insiders for pennies, including a $100,000 property to a BRA staffer for $5,000, and let him give the BRA hundreds of City properties (e.g., 24 Dorchester parcels worth $2.4 million).

Why haven’t these pillars of piety investigated how the liquor board awarded the license without a public hearing or vote? Despite evidence of back room promises by the board’s chair, we can’t get the District Attorney (a former Boston City Councilor) to prosecute.

And most important: Why, though the FBI informant directly implicated Mayor Tom Menino, has no one at the Mayor’s office been prosecuted? Maybe the answer is in one of the thousands of emails his aide, Michael Kineavy (the informant’s mayoral contact), deleted, a crime Attorney General Martha Coakley excused because "Criminal statutes generally include an element of intent." This element was not allowed to be considered by the jury in Turner’s trial.

Menino insists that the now-"shadowed" Turner quit. Menino, who signed away $40 million in taxes from One Beacon Street buyers for $3 million in slush funds via BRA shake-downs (bribery? extortion? Hello, FBI!), and who took Liberty Mutual’s $10,000 in campaign donations and gave them a $24 million tax break, now guards City Hall’s honor.

City officials self-righteously sitting in judgment on Turner have gotten away with terrible things. And they know it.

We got a video and a verdict. Did we really get justice?

Shirley Kressel is a landscape architect and urban designer, and one of the founders of the Alliance of Boston Neighborhoods.

From my blog:

Chuck Turner faces City Council ouster
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Like some Greek tragedy, the Boston City Council is about to vote to oust Chuck Turner, who was found guilty of accepting a $1,000 bribe for helping someone get a liquor license. The Councilors are apparently awed by their situation.

I’m sure they are. They know how lucky they are that they aren't the ones who were entrapped -- because most of them have committed far worse transgressions against the public interest.
From Michael Ross's unlawful "administrative dismissal" of 35 City parking tickets worth, coincidentally, $1000, to Maureen Feeney's hiring (in collusion with her Council colleagues) of Jimmy Kelly's former staffer for hundreds of thousands of dollars to write a report on why the City Council should be exempt from the Open Meeting Law, to the Council's years of Open Meeting Law violations and waste of hundreds of thousands of public dollars in legal fees while they lied about it to the courts before finally admitting to all charges, to their almost unanimous votes (Turner and Yancey being the only dissenters) to give away millions of our tax dollars to huge over-rich corporations like Liberty Mutual and JPMorganChase to please Mayor Menino, pretend they too, “created jobs,” and become big-money "playahs" themselves, to letting their staffers write themselves bonus checks, to perpetuating the eminent domain powers of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (another racket no one will prosecute) (and another vote on which Turner dissented) and so much, much more, this group of elected officials has been a disgrace to the cradle of democracy. They've gotten away with horrible things, and helped the mayor get away with horrible things. And they know it.

The bitter irony, that they should now sit in judgment over Chuck Turner, who -- whatever it was that he did here -- has been less corrupt than most of them have been in far more important ways, must give them pause.

And there is more than a hint of racism in this ridiculous outcome of the FBI investigation. Does anyone think no white politicians had anything to do with this, that only two black politicians happened to be involved? We can’t get the Ethics Commission to prosecute the City Council staff bonuses, which the Commission confirmed were illegal. We can’t get the state Attorney General to investigate years of email deletions by Boston City Hall employees, or to enforce its own injunction against Boston City Council Open Meeting Law violations. We can't get the District Attorney (a former Boston City Councilor) to do his job and prosecute the liquor licensing board for violating the Open Meeting Law in this very case. We can’t get the FBI to investigate mayoral shakedowns of real estate buyers for millions of dollars in return for tax breaks of tens of millions of dollars. The Turner verdict is hardly a victory for justice, in view of the over-all collapse of our ethics and law enforcement structure.

Justice, unfortunately, is not blind...but those who administer it certainly, and willfully, are.

From my blog:

The case against Chuck Turner
Thursday, March 17, 2011

Before joining in the universal chorus cheering the harsh sentence meted to former City Councilor Chuck Turner for “attempted extortion” in a liquor-license case, journalists should take time to read the court documents, including FBI affidavits and trial transcripts. In them, I found that:

1) The FBI had absolutely no evidentiary basis for suspecting Turner of past corrupt behavior, but simply decided to turn their focus onto him, for no apparent reason, to see if he’d accept money if offered.

2) Turner did no special favors for the license applicant (who is black), but merely called for a hearing on possible racial discrimination in his community, which includes Empowerment Zone neighborhoods needing economic development assistance. When he was told that state legislation was being proposed to increase the number of permits as a solution, he postponed the hearing, assuming no further action was needed. He and Representative Gloria Fox also signed letters of support for the application, a common and public gesture for constituents.
The judge instructed the jury that “the Government must prove that Mr. Turner knowingly and willfully obtained cash…. obtained or attempted to obtain a payment to which he is not entitled knowing that the payment was offered to him in return for taking or withholding or influencing official acts.” But all that really happened was that the FBI sent their paid informant, Ron Wilburn, to put money in Turner’s hand after Turner took action on behalf of his community. Here are the words, at the trial, of the FBI agent who sent the informant to give him money:

Q. [by prosecution attorney] And what were the instructions that you gave Mr. Wilburn before you sent him out with this video camera that day?

A. To have this conversation with Mr. Turner, to have, as I describe it in one report, a carefully worded conversation. I want Mr. Wilburn to say words to the effect that Mr. Turner is going to understand and know that he's accepting this -- he's being offered money for official acts that he took as a Boston City Councillor.

Q. And other than telling him to have this conversation, what else did you tell Mr. Wilburn to do?

A. Pay him the thousand dollars.

In other words, the agent was constructing a “crime” retroactively by having Wilburn give Turner unbidden money and saying words to him that would not reveal the exact nature of the set-up but would insinuate enough that the FBI could later claim they showed that Turner knew he was taking money in return for things he did as a Councilor. But in fact, Turner neither asked for any payback for calling that hearing, nor expected any, nor understood what was handed to him to be a payoff for calling a public hearing on a district problem. As Wilburn put it, it could have been a gift or a campaign contribution. Since there was no quid pro quo, there was no bribery or extortion involved; accepting a bribe is a matter of intent, a deliberate sale of public powers, and extortion further implies a threat to coerce a payback. Note that Mayor Tom Menino’s aide, Michael Kineavy, deleted thousands of official emails (including emails about the Mayor’s role, which both Wilburn and Wilkerson mentioned, in getting Wilburn this license) violating the Public Record Law; AG Martha Coakley absolved him and everyone else in the Mayor’s office because she concluded they had no “criminal intent” and therefore had committed no crime. When newspapers confront Mayor Menino or Governor Patrick with records of campaign contributions by corporations that have received favorable official treatment, they simply say, “oh, that didn’t influence me” – and that’s enough; no investigation is ever done, even when huge amounts are contributed right at the time of these favors. Millions of dollars are contributed and dealt out under these rules of legalized graft; therefore, if Turner had recorded the amount in his hand in his campaign ledger, he would have had no problem, even if it had, in fact, been a bribe.

3) The FBI could not prove how much money was actually given to Turner by the informant. The money was not, as required per FBI protocol, counted out before a camera prior to delivery by the informant, and the informant (who was having big financial problems) was not searched afterward. He didn’t announce the amount as he handed it to Turner, as he always did with Sen. Dianne Wilkerson (“Here’s a thousand dollars, Dianne”); he said, “Here, take your wife to dinner.” So it’s entirely possible that the informant, who showed up at Turner’s district office without an appointment and sat around waiting to be seen for forty minutes while staff and other visitors milled around near-by (an unlikely scenario for Turner to set up if he was expecting a bribe!), helped himself to most of whatever the FBI had stashed, unseen, into his hidden-camera bag, and handed Turner a sum of money that was, in fact, a “dinner” amount, and thus, when uncrumpled later, unmemorable for Turner, who, in fact, had barely met this man before and had done nothing particularly on his behalf, much less at his behest. If the amount was $50 or less, it was totally legal. If it was more, it was either an excessive gift (an ethics violation if no disclosure form is filed) or an unrecorded campaign contribution (although $1000 would be legal for the informant and his wife to contribute). This is hardly three-years-in-federal-prison material.

Councilor Mike Ross abused his office to fix 35 of his own parking tickets worth $1000 over the course of four years; he got a $2000 fine, in a settlement. As I recall, the Beacon Hill Times editor lamented that if the young, handsome Ross had a wife to take care of these little things, he wouldn’t have had this silly problem.

4) The other public officials, besides Wilkerson, who were named in the documents as involved somehow in the license imbroglio, (Mayor Menino, City Council president Maureen Feeney, Senate President Terese Murray, Senator Michael Morrissey, and the License Board chair, Daniel Pokaski (who got a substantial pay raise at the time of this license issue and just left, three years later, with a nice pension boost), and board members Michael Connolly and Suzanne Ianella, who awarded the license without a public hearing and thus broke, at very least, the Open Meeting Law, a violation the DA’s office has acknowledged but not prosecuted) have all gone, to my knowledge, without even a look-over by the FBI. As it turns out, a well-connected lawyer paid by Arthur Winn, whose development subsidy Wilkerson was pushing, finally simply went backstage at the License Board and said, give this guy a permit, and voila! they did. Turner was not even peripherally involved in the meetings and shenanigans around this matter and had no idea he was the star of the show. He was, as the informant told the Boston Globe, “naïve, and a victim of circumstances, not a thief.”

5) This classic case of “no good deed goes unpunished” was not even eligible for FBI investigation, as no interstate commerce was involved. So the FBI got someone to testify that liquor sold in Massachusetts is manufactured out of the state, and thus the award of an existing license to this applicant was a matter of interstate commerce. By that kind of logic, every action taken by every human being falls within FBI jurisdiction. This is jurisdiction gerrymandering. Turner was gerrymandered in, and Menino and the others were apparently gerrymandered out. If it’s not racially or politically motivated, I for one, would be interested in knowing exactly why it happened.

I have been a watchdog over city corruption for over fifteen years, and if I could detect a shred of evidence of corruption on Turner’s part, I’d be fully willing to expose and criticize it. I can’t. And my reliable sources in Roxbury can’t, either. I can say from my experience that, after Felix Arroyo, Sr., left, Turner was the only Councilor to whom I could turn for help – to call for a hearing, to get documents that should have been public but weren’t, to ask questions at scheduled hearings, to speak against the tax giveaways and boondoggles and corruption that are bleeding our city. He helped me and others, and he never cared about protecting himself and didn’t expect anything in return. He was against developer tax breaks, against the bio-terror lab, against a pay raise firefighters extorted for sobriety testing and against a City Council raise when it was enacted without a proper public hearing. He helped get CORI reforms so prisoners could re-enter society with gainful employment. He provided an affidavit to support the citizens’ suit against the City Council for its twelve Open Meeting Law violations, which intensified the guilty Councilors’ hatred of him and his independent ways, and made his expulsion from the Council a moment of gleeful revenge for them.

Dianne Wilkerson was heard on the tapes saying, "He [Turner] would be good, if you needed somebody… to go pick up a ruckus and just protest for you. You want to get something done . . . that’s not what he does." She also said, “Chuck is crazy, he lives in the 1960’s.” He was the one stickler for principle on our deeply flawed City Council – and that was indeed a crazy thing to do. This is his punishment.

It’s easy to hide smugly behind the jury’s verdict as an indisputable truth (remember the O. J. Simpson’s jury verdict?) and to scapegoat Turner for all the corruption that angers and frustrates us all. But without a context, that widely disseminated picture of the money in the handshake doesn’t say more than a thousand words; it tells a misleading story, and I’ve seen no journalist trying to get it right. If his appeal is unsuccessful, Turner will go to prison, but it won’t serve justice, and we’ll lose a real public servant.

Published in The Back Bay Sun, February 15, 2011.

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Thank you for posting this.

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So, I assume that we’re all in favor of convicted felon (political corruption, bribery, influence peddling, etc.) Sal DiMasi being allowed to be a lobbyist at the State House.

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Carmella, you just got served. Thank you Shirley K.

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Compared to DiMasi, Turner did nothing. DiMasi raked in millions, while Turner could have recorded the money as a campaign donation and be clean.

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