But before I do that, let me announce my biases. I think Chuck Turner has done some dumb things in the past, but he’s always been someone who’s fought tirelessly for his community. Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine Turner, someone who’s never shown a particular interest in wealth or power, knowingly accepting a bribe. Even those who have clashed with him politically probably never doubted the sincerity of his convictions.
Back to the affidavit. What appears undeniable from the text and pictures is this: a man (the cooperating witness or “CW”) who claimed to be seeking a liquor license for the Deja Vu nightclub gave Turner a wad of cash, saying something to the effect of “buy your wife something nice [exact words here],” and Turner accepted it.
Case closed, right?
Well, the peculiar part comes when the CW returns to Turner’s office at a later date. While waiting for the Councilor, the CW is greeted by a member of Turner’s staff who tells the CW that he’s not supposed to give money inside City Hall [correct?].
Did Turner tell his staff that about some weird guy from the Deja Vu nightclub who’s handing out cash and to make sure that it’s not to happen again? How else would the staff person know to say something like that? And if Turner told his staff, does that sound like something someone who just knowingly accepted a bribe would do?
Turner eventually arrives at his office and speaks to the CW, but the CW claims he couldn’t give Turner more money at that point, because the staff person is in the room. This meeting between Turner and the CW is the only time they speak after the previous meeting when the cash exchanged hands and before Turner’s arrest. At the previous meeting, the CW left Turner his contact number, but Turner never called.
Note that this is quite unlike the scenario with Dianne Wilkerson. She met with the CW on various occasions, received money multiple times, and from the conversations it was clear that there was an established quid pro quo between the money and the liquor license.
The moral defense Turner might make is that he was surprised by the case offer, but saw it as a campaign contribution, not a personal bribe. After all, prior to giving Turner the cash, the CW claims to have offered to throw a fundraiser for Turner. Sure, the CW says “buy your wife something nice [wording?]” when handing the cash, but Turner might have heard that as an off-the-cuff joke, or perhaps thought the CW was clueless about how campaign may be spent. Perhaps feeling uneasy about accepting a campaign contribution in City Hall, he could have instructed his staff to prevent the CW from making campaign contributions in his offices.
Throwing some water on the “campaign contribution” theory, is the fact that, as the affidavit notes, Turner never reported a campaign contribution from the CW [check again]. Maybe Turner will claim he was tardy in reporting it, perhaps putting it aside until his re-election campaign gets up and running later this year and he can ask the campaign’s finance director to report it properly.
The affidavit says Turner denied [taking bribe? what exactly?]
So perhaps Turner’s guilty of accepting a campaign donation from a constituent in City Hall and being slow to report said donation. But bribery is another level.