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Sad end of an era

Sad end of an era

Sad end of an era

For many decades, Chuck Turner has worked tirelessly for programs that he thought would benefit the citizens of Roxbury, Mattapan, Dorchester and the South End. No one believed that his efforts would benefit him financially. In fact, when Turner was elected to the city council, he opened at his own expense a community office in the Dudley Street area to spare people from the inconvenience of a trip to City Hall.

As a city councilor, Turner became committed to providing constituent services. He would frequently call the Bay State Banner to generate journalistic attention for citizen’s problems. Turner believed that it was part of his job description to help everyone he could. This was not a service for which the constituent would be billed.

There was nothing in Turner’s lifestyle to suggest that he had any affinity for the “rich and famous.” His clothes were definitely not Savile Row and his car, some say, was rescued from the junkyard. Reports are that he is in financial debt because of the cost of his Roxbury office. Even if there is a technical violation over Turner’s acceptance of a $1,000 donation, this is a case that should never have been brought.

It is impossible for every prosecutorial agency to pursue every prospective violation.  Look how long it took the Securities and Exchange Commission to catch up with Bernard L. Madoff while he continued his scam.  The U.S. Justice Department prosecuted Dr. Benjamin Spock in 1968 for “conspiring to counsel, aid, and abet resistance to the draft.” He was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

Madoff was favored as he seemed to be making millions for others. Dr. Spock, although a famous pediatrician, had lost favor because of his inveterate opposition to the war in Vietnam. Altough federal prosecutors insist that they are objective, it is clear that prosecutorial discretion moves toward those who are not favored.

In the normal course of business, it is hard to understand why the U.S. attorney would decide to prosecute Turner.  He is a 70-year-old man with no crime sheet and an extended record of public service. The only serious crime alleged is the payment of $1,000 as extortion for performance of public service. Even that would have been more questionable at the time the case was being considered. There is no doubt that there had to be some political motivation in bringing the case.

Over the years, Turner has aggravated the political establishment by focusing public attention on issues far beyond the purview of the city council. Perhaps his prosecution is payback for that. Or more simply, the Turner prosecution might have been merely an element of the case against former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.

The very fact that the case was brought should have indicated to Turner that he was not among the favored. The only thing to do then is to develop a strategy to win. Those with legal background are still wondering why Turner even thought that his testimony would be helpful.

The verdict in the Turner case should emphasize for African Americans that we have entered an era where it is important to win. To have your say or to make your statement might be good for the soul, but sometimes it is just too costly.

The people want victories. They want leaders who can take them over the goal line.