Let me be clear from the start: if Chuck Turner took that money (and the jury says he did), it was wrong, and his conviction was proper-a tragic end to a great career.
However, Turner’s guilt or innocence is only a small part of the story. The bigger part involves the decision by Federal Attorney Michael Sullivan – a former Republican State Representative – to go after him. Bear in mind that even if we accept the prosecution’s case at face value, the following points are true:
1. This was not an investigation of a crime. No crime was committed until the investigation of Turner was under way.
2. Ron Wilburn, the guy who gave $1,000 to Turner, was paid $30,000 to do so by the federal government.
3. Wilburn has told the press that several other individuals were implicated by his evidence, but the only people prosecuted were two African American elected officials with progressive politics, Turner and then-State Senator Dianne Wilkerson. Logically this has to be true — elected officials can’t issue liquor licenses themselves, they have to get someone in City Hall to do it.
It’s hard not to conclude then that this was not an attempt to root out corruption in city politics, but an attempt to silence a strong progressive voice from Boston’s inner city.
In this regard, I have to take note of an editorial in today’s Boston Globe with the title “Chuck Turner’s World of Lies.” Here’s the concluding paragraph:
Turner, to be fair, isn’t a venal man. He doesn’t live it up on ill-begotten funds. 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
Wow! It is the considered opinion of the Globe editorial board that to advocate ideas they disagree with is a serious crime! More serious than bribery, for example. It follows that Turner deserved to be punished whether or not he took a bribe – so perhaps it was justifiable to arrange for him to be offered one. With Boston’s leading newspaper advancing views like that, it’s no wonder that many of us are very skeptical indeed of the Turner prosecution.