Wilkerson Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years in Prison

Federal judge Douglas Woodlock has sentenced former state Senator Dianne Wilkerson to 3 1/2 years in prison for taking $23,500 in bribes in a scandal that rocked the Massachusetts State House and Boston City Hall.

The Boston Globe reported that Woodlock said he recognized Wilkerson’s service to the community but he called her “financially embarrassed and fiscally incontinent” and said she had imposed her own “Wilkerson tax” on the community by accepting the bribes.

He rejected her plea for a lesser sentence, saying a message needed to be sent that political corruption would not be tolerated. “It’s clear the sentencing imposed for criminal conduct here — and in other industrial states, frankly — hasn’t been sufficient,” he said.

He ordered Wilkerson, once a rising star in the state Democratic party, to turn herself in March 11 to begin serving her sentence at the federal prison in Danbury, Conn.

Wilkerson, in a lengthy plea of mercy during the sentencing hearing, offered no specific explanation for what she had done. She also said she had always acted on her constituents’ behalf and the bribes she had taken did not affect her actions.

“If it was possible to do something criminal without being criminal, that would be me,” she said.

Outside the courthouse after the sentencing, Wilkerson said she accepted responsibility for her crimes but believed that corrupt federal prosecutors went after her and former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, who was also convicted of a bribery charge, because they were outspoken politicians who challenged the status quo in Massachusetts.

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