Chuck Turner sentenced to three years

(Is this kind of marriage legal in Massachusetts?  ;-) - promoted by David)


A federal judge today sentenced Chuck Turner to three years behind bars for accepting a $1,000 bribe, a stinging rebuke to the former Boston city councilor.

US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock rejected an appeal for leniency by defense attorneys, who had asked that the 70-year-old civil rights crusader receive probation and be spared prison because of his more than four decades of service as a community activist and elected official.

From all that I know of the case (which honestly isn’t that much), Turner was duly convicted, and I think it’s appropriate that he serve time.  I have to say, though, that three years seems harsh for a 70-year-old man who is obviously not any kind of threat, and strikes me as the justice system giving Turner a whack for being a royal pain in their backsides.  However, I may well be wrong – I would be interested to know whether political corruption cases of similar gravity have resulted in similar sentences.

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20 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Perjury

    I haven't read the transcript, but based on the judge's comments as reported by the Globe, I suspect he got a sentence enhancement on account of his perjury:

    Today, Woodlock called Turner's testimony during the trial "ludicrous and surreal.''

    "The defendant perjured himself at trial,'' he said. "He stated things he knew were not true. ... No one forced him to testify."


    • Of course,

      no jury has been asked about anything like perjury - this is the judge finding facts.  He didn't go beyond the statutory maximum, so there probably isn't an Apprendi problem, but it still feels like the judge and the prosecutors just got really pissed off at Turner.

  2. I agree that the sentence seemed excessive.

    These judges are all over the place. Granted it's never apples and apples, every case is a little different, but how much time did Finneran do for obstruction of justice? How about Charles Flaherty for tax evasion or whatever? A drug-peddlng Menino aide walked free a week ago. Nothing ever seems quite right.

  3. How about political punishment for political crime?

    Personally I'd prefer to save prison space for the dangerous.  More appropriate would be to take away his ability to vote, contribute to candidates, or seek elective office.

    • I disagree

      The man harmed us all, twice: first, by taking a bribe, he harmed the faith in our government, which is a major harm IMO.  Then, he harmed the justice system with perjury.

      I agree that his punishment seems harsh compared to Farnkoff's examples above... but my frustration is that those (white) politicians didn't serve long enough, not that Turner's term is too long.  I'm not asking that he do hard time; a "Club Fed" low security prison seems reasonable, but he ought reside there for more than a few months.

      • When I say dangerous...

        ...I mean do I feel unsafe walking the streets at night knowing that he is free, or would his living in my neighborhood cause me to lock the house if I weren't already in that habit.  The answer here is obviously and absolutely not.

  4. David, I agree with almost everything you said...

    From all that I know of the case (which honestly isn't that much), Turner was duly convicted, and I think it's appropriate that he serve time.  I have to say, though, that three years seems harsh for a 70-year-old man who is obviously not any kind of threat, and strikes me as the justice system giving Turner a whack for being a royal pain in their backsides.

    I too believe the sentence was excessive, however I think the fact that Turner insulted the court with his "preacher's handshake" defense and that he never admitted his guilt caused the higher sentence. Had he admitted it was a mistake, I think the judge would have gone easier.

    • Everybody is pointing to Turner's lack of remorse

      and failure to admit guilt as a primary reason for this (relatively) stiff sentence for a first-time conviction. Indeed, his defiant attitude does seem to set him apart from many of the other recent and historical white-collar felons who got off easy- most of them pled guilty and apologized prior to getting their slaps on the wrist, as the Herald's Gelzinis and others have noted.

      However, although he hasn't yet gone to trial, I think now is a good time to note that Sal DiMasi is, like Turner, fighting the charges tooth and nail, and has maintained his innocence throughout the many months since his indictment. His lawyers have gone so far as to suggest that money he received was "just a gift" and thus not illegal. I suppose there's still time for contrition, but we have seen none yet from the former Speaker.

      • I think the question about Turner not being contrite...

        was more concerning the trial and the sentencing hearing. What Sal or Turner says in public is not particularly relevant to the judge (IMO) since everyone is "innocent" before the verdict. Maybe some lawyers here can comment on it but I think when you are found guilty and "throw yourself at the mercy of the court", the court wants to hear how sorry you are for committing the crime (since you were found guilty of it).

  5. The whole case smacks of racism and right wing hegemony.

    Here's some interesting footage from yesterday.

    U.S. AG Ramsey Clark, former AAG and 700 support letters show the targeted, racist prosecution and sentencing of Chuck Turner in vivid detail.

    I will say this right now and directly to Judge Woodlock and everyone else involved, particularly the prosecutors who ignored my questions: If you seriously think that Chuck Turner deserves more jail or prison time than John Buonomo who orchestrated hundreds of thousands of dollars of theft from actual taxpayers you need your individual and collective heads examined. More.

    Ditto John Forbes, who got PROBATION.

    Ditto Nick Mavroules, 15 months for all of his criminality.

    Meanwhile, as to the Herald..... it's lawsuit, lawsuit, lawsuit....



    • Thanks for the youtube post. That woman speaking for the prosecution

      is obnoxious; I have even more empathy for Turner than before.  Anyone who says that justice is "blind" has only to look at all the hacks surrounding this woman to give her some kind of support.  Ugh.

    • Others have cried race too...

      ...but I honestly fail to see the let's-get-the-black-guy conspiracy here.  What would the motive for that be?  Does this prosecutor have a history of trying to entrap black people?

      • The set-up may have been motivated by race

        and entrapment is illegal, but the fact remains that we've all seen footage of a city councilor taking a bribe.

        The government shouldn't set people up, but government officials shouldn't be taking bribes, either. I'd be more sympathetic if he fessed up and then attacked the tactics.  

      • The answer is...

        Prosecutor's office has a history and it's not good. And remember I said it's not just race but race + ideology


        05 NOVEMBER 2009

        KingCast reminder: Kelly Ayotte should be disbarred, just like Mike Nifong, and sued just as Iowa's David Richter in yesterday's Supreme Court case. As I already told you, Mike Nifong was disbarred for his fabrications in the Duke rape case.

        In Boston, the Court is soft-peddling the white prosecutor who did the same thing to Bernard Baran, who spent 21 years behind bars. I'll be following up to see what, if any discipline is meted out.

        Answer: Nothing. Daniel Ford has even served as a Judge......


      No racism here, just a guilty person who happens to be black. Finneran, DiMasi, Faherty and a whole bunch of other people get charged/prosecuted for similar crimes... no matter what color they are.

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