The Boston Globe reports that Boston city councilor Chuck Turner testified on Tuesday that local businessman Ronald Wilburn handed him “something” when they shook hands at a meeting in 2007, but that he does not remember receiving cash in that exchange, which Wilburn secretly videotaped as an FBI witness.
Taking the stand in his own defense against the advice of his lawyers, Turner also said he did not recall meeting Wilburn three times in his district office and at City Hall that summer, as Wilburn and prosecutors in Turner’s extortion trial have described.
Turner acknowledged that the FBI videotape shows him meeting with Wilburn Aug. 3, 2007, at the councilor’s storefront district office in Roxbury. And he conceded that Wilburn, who carried a briefcase rigged with a surveillance camera to the office, testified that the tape shows Wilburn giving Turner $1,000 in cash during a handshake.
When Turner’s own attorney asked him whether he accepted five $100 bills and ten $50 bills from Wilburn in exchange for helping him get a liquor license, the councilor seemed incredulous.
“I’ve never had that kind of money given to me,” he said. “Why would somebody be giving me that kind of money? . . . It would have been such a strange situation that it would have created a memory. If somebody gave me $60, I would have to give them back $10 and give the rest of the money to [the campaign].”
Under state election law, individuals cannot give more than $50 in cash to a political candidate or a check exceeding $500 in a particular year.
At another point, Turner explained that he meets with 50 to 60 constituents at his district office each month on Fridays, making it difficult to remember every encounter.
The Globe reports that Turner’s defense team appeared dejected after his testimony. They had warned him not to take the stand after the government rested its case yesterday. His testimony is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
Turner was arrested at City Hall on Nov. 21, 2008, less than a month after state Senator Dianne Wilkerson was charged in a related investigation for taking $23,500 in bribes from Wilburn and undercover FBI agents. Wilkerson, the main target of the sting, resigned her seat and pleaded guilty in June. She awaits sentencing.
Turner is on trial on charges of attempted extortion and three counts of lying to FBI agents who interviewed him the day of Wilkerson’s arrest about the $1,000 bribe he allegedly received 14 months earlier.