City Councilor Chuck Turner gives supporters a thumbs-up during a Nov. 24 City Hall rally. After his arrest by FBI agents on charges that he accepted a $1,000 bribe and lied about it, Turner has redefined the term “zealous defense,” issuing a stream of statements in an attempt to tell his side of the story. (Don West photo, www.donwestfoto.com)
|A stoic Chuck Turner (left) stands surrounded by vocal supporters at a Nov. 24 rally at City Hall Plaza that the Boston city councilor called as part of his defense. Through numerous public statements and press conferences following his arrest on federal bribery charges, Turner has repeatedly asserted his innocence. (Don West photo, www.donwestfoto.com)
|For more than 40 years, Turner, seen here in this undated photo, has advocated for residents of Boston’s low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, many of whom have come out loudly in support of his self-defense efforts. (Banner file photo)
Say this about Chuck Turner: He punches back.
The Boston city councilor has boldly proclaimed his innocence in a flurry of five press conferences held since his Nov. 21 arrest on federal charges of extortion and making false statements to FBI agents.
“Some argue that I should keep quiet for fear that I may make some statement that can be used against me,” Turner told one gathering of media and supporters. “So be it! I will not sit back silently and allow my reputation be ripped to shreds.”
Within the last week, Turner has raised a serious question about the FBI’s case and its use of Ron Wilburn, a Roxbury man who told the Boston Globe that he was the cooperating witness in a sting operation that led to the arrests of Turner and state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson who resigned last month.
On Nov. 28, Turner got specific.
“The U.S. Attorney’s charge is not that I accepted the alleged money from Mr. Wilburn,” Turner explained. “Cash contributions below $50 are legal. Even if the alleged money was $1,000, I would be guilty of a campaign finance violation, not extortion.
“Since the charge is extortion,” Turner went on, “the U.S. Attorney will have to prove not only that I forced Mr. Wilburn to give me money to provide the service of obtaining a liquor license, but also that I conducted activities specifically designed to obtain a license. The reason that I continue to loudly and continually proclaim my innocence is that I know they can prove neither charge, since neither of the alleged activities took place.”
Turner wasn’t through. He also pointed out inconsistencies in Wilburn’s interview with Globe columnist Adrian Walker.
“Wilburn said that federal agents approached him,” Walker wrote, “though he was vague about the circumstances, saying only that they were curious about ‘political donations.’ He specifically rebutted one allegation made by FBI agents, that he told investigators that Wilkerson routinely took payments from people having business before the Senate. He said he had no such knowledge.”