Dianne Wilkerson’s long slide down
This morning’s arrest of state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson on extortion and wire fraud charges looks like the final chapter in a pitiful tale whose installments have come with almost predictable regularity over a period stretching more than a decade. Though she’s entitled to her day in court, the charges that Wilkerson took payments as part of scheme to secure a liquor license for a Roxbury development add a contemptible element of venality to a biography that now reads more like a rap sheet.There was the failure to file federal income tax returns for four years in the 1990s, a guilty plea for which earned her six months home confinement and 30 days in a halfway house when she violated the terms of the sentence. There was the start of foreclosure proceedings against her, multiple violations of state campaign finance laws, an Ethics Commission ruling against her, and questions about the veracity of statements she gave under oath in a hearing regarding a stabbing death for which a nephew was convicted of manslaughter.
Through it all, Wilkerson projected a strange calm. Arrogance and paranoia, many would call it. Wilkerson has often dismissed charges against her as the handiwork of enemies, while claiming that she’s held to a different standard than other public officials. Her recklessness and hubris have always been striking. What now also seems clear is that she has a self-destructive streak so immutable that whatever gifts for political leadership Wilkerson once had were overtaken by defects so deep that they appear to be clinically pathological.