Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner told a group of reporters today that he will definitely take the stand at his corruption trial in federal court and was incredulous that anyone would even ask whether he planned to testify.
"I've been accused of a horrible crime for a public official," he said outside the courtroom at the federal courthouse in Boston where his trial is underway. "I have to take that witness stand."
Although some legal specialists have said it would be risky for Turner to take the stand -- and Turner disclosed before the trial that his lawyers had advised him not to -- he contended that attorneys operate in a different realm. He is innocent, he said, and his integrity has been unfairly challenged.
"Something is dreadfully wrong if you don't expect me to take the witness stand," he said. "You should be saying, 'Right on, Chuck, that's what we expect you to do!'" At that, one of Turner's supporters flanking him shouted, "Right on, Chuck!"
Prosecutors have said they expect to rest their case Tuesday or Wednesday, meaning that Turner's testimony could come as early as Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, businessman Ronald Wilburn, the government's star witness, concluded three days of lively testimony and minutes after leaving the courtroom predicted that Turner will be convicted of lying to FBI agents.
"He's gone,'' said Wilburn, 71, who had testified about his role as an undercover informant for the FBI during an investigation that netted both Turner and former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, who pleaded guilty earlier this year. "They are going to kill him on perjury.''
Turner is on trial for attempted extortion for allegedly accepting a $1,000 cash bribe from Wilburn and for lying to FBI agents by allegedly telling them that he did not know Wilburn, and that he and Wilburn never discussed setting up a fund-raiser for the veteran Roxbury councilor.
Jurors have seen secretly recorded videotape of the two men meeting in Aug. 3, 2007, and of Wilburn as he allegedly handed over the cash.
"They are going to crucify'' Turner, Wilburn told reporters today.
On the stand today, Wilburn clashed with Turner defense attorney Barry P. Wilson and also used props to show what happened to the paper money as he allegedly handed cash to Turner while being questioned by a federal prosecutor.
During questioning, Wilson effectively accused Wilburn of going to work for the FBI because he was in dire financial straits. Wilburn was paid about $30,000 by the government for his work.
But Wilburn insisted his finances were in good shape when he agreed to become cooperating witness because his wife had a $70,000-a-year job with Fidelity Investments and his adult daughter was working for the PetSmart chain earning $55,000 a year.
However, Wilburn also acknowledged that his wife lost her job in the fall of 2008 – just about the time that Wilkerson was arrested on corruption charges.
Wilburn appeared to surprise spectators in the courtroom when he suddenly pulled the props out of his pocket while being questioned about the handshake – captured on videotape – that prosecutors contend shows him handing a wad of cash to Turner.
Holding a pile of index cards wrapped with a rubber hand in his hand, Wilburn said he took the cash out of his pocket with his right hand and then transferred into his left hand before he took Turner's hand.
The demonstration Wilburn gave to the jurors did not closely match what was shown on the videotape that he secretly recorded.
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