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Adrian Walker

Playing the victim

By Adrian Walker
Globe Columnist / January 15, 2011

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Just when things couldn’t get worse for Chuck Turner, they did.

In a filing released this week, the federal government — which has already convicted the former Boston city councilor of taking a $1,000 bribe — alleges that he lied as well. The filing is intended to bolster the government’s request for Judge Douglas Woodlock to come down hard on Turner at his sentencing this month. Turner was convicted for taking graft from a Roxbury businessman who was seeking a liquor license from the city.

The latest allegation came as no surprise to anyone who followed the trial. Prosecutors didn’t make much of an effort to conceal their disbelief at Turner’s claims that he didn’t remember meeting with the informant who bribed him — a meeting captured on camera. They were plainly skeptical on a number of other points, as well.

And clearly they weren’t alone; if the jurors had believed Turner’s testimony, presumably they would have voted to acquit him.

Even by the standards of a federal prosecution, the battle between Turner and the government has been vitriolic. Turner has called the US attorney who presided over his indictment a “scoundrel,’’ while prosecutors, in more muted terms, have insisted that Turner is pretty much a lying hypocrite.

Uncharacteristically, Turner didn’t return a call from a Globe reporter seeking comment about the government’s latest allegation. His attorney, Barry P. Wilson, is traveling outside the country. On the day Turner was convicted, a disgusted Wilson he said he would be out of the country on the Jan. 25 sentencing date “and might not come back.’’

Turner has to be concerned about the tough sentence Woodlock handed to his de facto codefendant, Dianne Wilkerson. She got 3 1/2 years in a sentence that was meant to send a message about getting tougher on political corruption. That can’t bode well for Turner.

Of course, Turner has not taken his conviction and subsequent removal from the council quietly. He has held rallies. He has denounced the government. He is pursuing a ludicrous wrongful termination suit against the city — his former council colleagues, really — for firing him. That prompts the question: If being removed from office for a bribery conviction is “wrongful termination,’’ what is his idea of rightful termination?

Not to be outdone, Wilkerson blasted the guy who gave her cash, Ronald Wilburn, as the head of some massive criminal enterprise. She and Turner share a fondness for dramatic statements that may include anything but a plausible denial of wrongdoing. Both have treated guilt or innocence as incidental.

The question of whether Turner actually perjured himself isn’t likely to ever come before a jury. He stated on the witness stand that the didn’t remember Wilburn, didn’t know what was placed in his hand, and that during the time he and Wilkerson were taking bribes from the same person on the same matter, they weren’t speaking. (Supposedly, they were in the midst of some unspecified feud.) All hard to believe, but perhaps Turner really does have a super-porous memory that cannot be refreshed by evidence. He is such an odd guy, it is hard to know for sure.

What is certain is that the day this circus ends will be a great day for Turner’s former constituents in Roxbury. The devastation of being represented by a criminal has only been made worse by Turner’s lack of contrition or remorse, and his insistence on portraying himself as a victim of a system determined to bring him down. He is a victim of just one thing: his own terrible judgment.

But the good news: There is a spirited multicandidate race now underway to replace Turner on the council. To borrow a line from former Globe great Marty Nolan, any of the announced candidates would be preferable to Chuck Turner. His misery will soon be his alone, and none too soon.

Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at walker@globe.com.