Feds float Turner perjury charge

Filing comes in advance of Jan. 25 sentencing

Federal prosecutors have stepped up their pressure on former Boston city councilor Chuck Turner, alleging Turner committed perjury while testifying at his corruption trial this past fall.

In court documents filed during Wednesday’s snowstorm, Assistant US Attorney John T. McNeil identified 15 instances in which he alleged Turner lied under oath. They include 14 in which the former Roxbury city councilor said he couldn’t remember meeting with the government’s cooperating witness, Ron Wilburn, or being handed a fistful of cash by Wilburn, and one in which Turner tells the court, “I’m here to tell the truth.”

In October, a jury found Turner guilty of taking a $1,000 bribe and lying to the FBI.

Turner has steadfastly maintained his innocence from the time of his 2008 arrest. Unlike former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, who was arrested on bribery charges in 2008, and then pleaded guilty and publicly expressed contrition, Turner has cast the criminal case against him as a gambit by former attorney general John Ashcroft and former US attorney Michael Sullivan to take down outspoken African-American politicians. In protesting his expulsion from the Boston City Council last month, Turner told his former colleagues that his conviction was “a setup” and “rotten.”

Prosecutors have not filed criminal charges related to the alleged perjury, and it’s not clear whether they intend to. The documents were filed as part of a dizzying pre-sentencing back-and-forth between the US Attorney’s office and Turner’s attorneys, who have been seeking to delay his January 25 sentencing date. Today, Woodlock denied the motion to postpone sentencing.

Yesterday’s court filing contrasts Turner’s evasive answers on the stand – he repeatedly said he couldn’t remember the videotaped exchange in which Wilburn appears to hand him cash – with his statements immediately following his conviction, in which he said he was innocent and said the government’s case against him was built on lies and manipulated evidence.

Turner and his lawyer could not be reached immediately to comment on the new government filing.

Prosecutors appear to be laying the case for an argument that Turner deserves a punishment stiffer than a first conviction for taking $1,000 would normally warrant under federal sentencing guidelines.

The US attorney won an enhancement of Wilkerson’s jail time by parading her tax and ethics troubles before a judge. Prosecutors also had a contractor testify that he handed Wilkerson $5,000 in cash, even though she was never charged in connection with that payoff. Wilkerson was sentenced to three and a half years in jail last week. McNeil prosecuted both the Turner and Wilkerson cases, and Judge Douglas Woodlock presided over both.

In addition to leveling perjury allegations at Turner, McNeil may be setting the stage to ask for an enhanced sentence based on Turner’s combative attitude before and after his trial.

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Paul McMorrow

Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

At Wilkerson’s sentencing hearing, McNeil told Woodlock that Wilkerson’s sentence should be tempered because, after her arrest, she quit her reelection campaign and resigned from the Senate. She also deserved credit for not disparaging government prosecutors or making her case about race, McNeil argued.

It would appear to be no coincidence that every point McNeil credited Wilkerson with was a point working against Turner. Turner held on to his City Council seat after his arrest, and is currently in federal court seeking to overturn his expulsion; he told supporters his arrest was a government plot to “destabilize a community of color that’s on the move”; and, McNeil said last week, he leveled “scurrilous, fraudulent criticisms” at prosecutors.

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