Former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner has been sentenced to three years in prison for taking a $1,000 bribe and then lying about it to FBI agents.
During his trial last fall, prosecutors said Turner accepted a wad of cash in 2007 during a handshake with a businessman who was seeking help in getting a liquor license and was cooperating with the FBI. Turner testified in his own defense and insisted he did not take a bribe.
Prosecutors asked U.S District Judge Douglas Woodlock to sentence Turner on Tuesday to 33 to 41 months, arguing that Turner not only committed the offenses he was charged with, but also committed perjury during his trial.
His lawyers asked for probation and supervised release, citing his public service and advocacy for poor and working people.
“Mr. Turner was sentenced to prison today because of the choices he made and the actions he took during the course of this case,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “In 2008, Mr. Turner had the chance to assist the FBI in an ongoing public corruption investigation. Instead of telling the truth, he lied. He then went on to testify falsely under oath. It is the obligation of every elected official to be ethical and honest, and in this case, Mr. Turner was neither. Public corruption is more than a violation of the law, it erodes the public’s trust in the very system that was designed to protect us.”
After the sentencing, Turner, 70, left the courthouse to supporters chants of “We stand with Chuck!”
“This has been a horrendous situation for my wife and family,” Turner told reporters. “What happened today is as much a miscarriage of justice as the conviction. I’m innocent.”
Turner vowed to use his time behind bars productively.
“We are in a struggle for future generations,” Turner said. “If some of us fall along the way, the others have to keep up the struggle. Hopefully I’ll get out of jail and rejoin the struggle… If I die in prison, all I want is an autopsy. As far as I’m concerned, we’re at war.”
During the sentencing, 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.”
Woodlock said $1,000 may seem like short money ... but it’s real money. You’d remember it. Anyone would remember it. The right thing to do is give it back — immediately. That’s not what Mr. Turner did.”
Ortiz was equally blunt and blasted Turner for likening himself to civil rights icons.
“Mr. Turner is no Rosa Rarks; he’s a convicted felon,’ ” Ortiz said outside the courtroom.
Material from published reports contributed to this story.
Putting a cap on a legendarily bad week for politicians serving Boston's communities of color, City Councilor Chuck Turner was arrested by federal agents on Friday morning.
The five-term councilor from District 7 (which includes Roxbury and parts of the Fenway, the South End and Dorchester) stands accused of accepting a $1,000 bribe "and then making false statements to FBI agents who questioned him about it," according to a statement from the office of U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan. More »
(AP) Gov. Deval Patrick said last week that he supports the Boston City Council's decision to oust Chuck Turner.
"I have, for a long time, respected much of the work that Chuck Turner has done in communities and for communities," Patrick told reporters after addressing the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association. "There is a very strong feeling among people in his district that he is responsive to them, but he is convicted of a very serious crime and, I think, there are a lot of consequences that ought to come from that - and this is one." More »
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. More »