The Boston Globe reports that a federal judge sentenced Chuck Turner to three years in prison for accepting a $1,000 bribe, chastising the former Boston city councilor for his inability to “confront the ugly reality of the federal crimes he committed.”
US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock laid blame for the harsh sentence squarely on Turner, saying he committed blatant perjury with his “surreal” and “ludicrous” testimony that he could not recall meeting a government witness who handed him a wad of cash related to liquor licensing.
“Someone like Mr. Turner who undertakes to speak truth to power must face the truth about himself,” Woodlock said from the bench as Turner broke into a wide smile. “If it had been just a $1,000 bribe unaccompanied by false statements to the FBI and without the ludicrously perjurious testimony, we’d be in a different place.”
Although Woodlock acknowledged Turner’s decades of advocating for the voiceless, the judge said it was clear he also “took a little on the side” and “betrayed the public trust.”
Turner was ordered to report to prison March 25, although his lawyer vowed to appeal his case. During the two-hour hearing, Turner, a 70-year-old Harvard-educated activist, repeatedly shook his head to disagree with statements from the judge and prosecutor, but he declined to speak during the proceeding.
Turner’s supporters cheered as he left the courtroom, chanting, “We stand with Chuck!” Outside, a crush of media and others surrounded Turner as he struck a familiar tone of defiance, alleging a broad government conspiracy perpetrated by President George H.W. Bush’s administration to “shut the mouths” of black elected officials. He warned of “prosecutors gone wild” and vowed to return to Boston after serving his time to keep up the fight.
“What happened today was as much a miscarriage of justice as the conviction,” Turner said. “I’m innocent, and I didn’t lie on the stand.”