The Office of U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan was unavailable to respond to Turner’s charges. Nor was the office available to comment on a slew of charges from the Green-Rainbow Party, of which Turner is a member.
On Tuesday, the Green-Rainbow Party asked the FBI to drop its bribery charges against Turner and called for an investigation into what it called the “targeting practices” of the FBI, to determine if the federal agency had been used for political ends.
Describing the 11-page FBI affidavit as a “flawed document putting forth an entirely unconvincing, dubious case,” the Green-Rainbow Party said in a release that “the so-called ‘damning’ evidence on the videotape is merely a snippet showing the FBI informant, Ron Wilburn, shoving an unsolicited wad of bills into Councilor Turner’s hands.”
The Green-Rainbow Party also argued that the FBI’s case is “further undermined” by the admission that Turner had been assisting Wilburn without seeking any cash donation in return.
“The affidavit cites an encounter between Councilor Turner and Wilburn in which Wilburn says he is so grateful that he will do ‘anything’ for Councilor Turner,” the party stated in its release. “Turner then suggests that the informant talk to his campaign manager about participating in a totally legal fundraiser.
“In the second meeting, the FBI informant fails to get Turner to cooperate in receiving a second cash payment,” the release continues. “Putting aside speculative FBI innuendo, the affidavit actually undermines the FBI assertion that Turner was engaged in any effort to secure illegal cash.”
Eli Beckerman, the incoming co-chair of the Green-Rainbow Party, pointed out a potential political element to the FBI’s probe.
“Chuck Turner is a public servant with a 42-year record of honesty and extraordinary service that is seldom seen in Massachusetts politics,” Beckerman said. “He has repeatedly stood up for his community and turned down chances to curry favor from the wealthy interests that typically fund political careers. And he is one of the few political figures that have been openly critical of FBI infringement upon civil liberties.”
Beckerman further argued that leaks to media outlets also raised questions.
“The selective leakage of supposedly incriminating information, in the media-friendly form of a video tape, even prior to seeking an indictment, appears to be a deliberate attempt by the FBI to destroy Turner’s political career,” Beckerman said. “This in itself raises questions [about] whether the FBI was motivated by legitimate law enforcement considerations.”
Turner’s impressive showing of support has already frozen one opponent — Boston City Council President Maureen Feeney.
Within hours of Turner’s arrest, Feeney rushed to remove Turner from all of his committee assignments, including his chairmanship of the committees on education and human rights.
“I am deeply saddened by the news this morning,” Feeney said in a statement released the day of Turner’s arrest. “These charges are disturbing and shake an already fragile public trust in elected officials … If these charges prove true, I will not let the actions of one member cast a dark cloud over this entire body.”
There was only one problem: It was unclear whether Feeney had the legal authority to make such a decision. In fact, she conceded as much when she later announced that she had sent the case to the city’s legal department for review — and canceled a City Council hearing hastily called to discuss Turner’s future.
Feeney said the reason for the meeting’s cancellation was not to allow Turner and his supporters to transform a council session into “a stage for political theater.”
That was just fine by Turner. He already had written a letter to Feeney expressing his displeasure with her actions and urging her to cancel the proposed meeting.
“Not only would a meeting at this point be premature, unjust and unfair,” Turner wrote, “but also it would create a situation in which I will not be able to defend myself, since discussing specific aspects of my case would cause me to be in violation of the conditions imposed by the court.”
Left unanswered in the swirl of charges and countercharges is the question of corruption of State House politics. According to the federal complaint, Turner allegedly told FBI agents that “if you took out all [the] corrupt politicians, you’d take out 90 percent and be left with us 10 percent.”
That might be. But at least in the eyes of the Green-Rainbow Party, Turner remains among that truthful tenth.
“Turner has been a courageous leader in the fight for principles of justice and peace,” the party said. “He has been at the front lines in the struggles to save peoples’ homes from cruel foreclosures, for the right to decent jobs, the right to live free from violence in our communities. Chuck Turner has been willing to go to jail on principle, and has consistently and selflessly led the way on issues of vital importance to the well-being of his community.”
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