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Did federal prosecutors overreach in targeting Chuck Turner?

Posted by Alan Wirzbicki  March 25, 2011 04:07 PM

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As Chuck Turner reports to prison today to begin his three-year sentence, Harvey Silverglate and Kyle Smeallie lob an attack at prosecutors for bringing the corruption charges that snagged the longtime activist and city councilor.

Writing in the Phoenix, Smeallie and Silverglate don't argue that Turner was necessarily innocent, or — as Turner and some of his supporters have long maintained — that he was targeted because of his race.

Rather, they write, the prosecution was inappropriate because it was triggered by Turner's unwillingness to help the FBI in its pursuit of bigger fish: former state senator Dianne Wilkerson.

"Stepping back, it becomes clear that Turner was targeted by the FBI because he refused to play ball and build the government's case against another Massachusetts politician," they write. "This is all about federal power — the power to destroy any who won't cooperate with the government's agenda."

It's an interesting idea — but one that Turner himself has basically rejected.

Instead, Turner wants his supporters to believe he was the victim of a racist government conspiracy to silence him, masterminded by former attorneys general John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales and former president George W. Bush. "They're in the business of persecution," he explained after his sentencing in January.

Smeallie and Silverglate's theory, on the other hand, relegates Turner to the status of an almost incidental target, charged only because he refused to help prosecutors go after another politician. Prosecutors would surely disagree with that portrayal — and, with so much invested in his own fantasy world of White House-led conspiracies against him, so would Turner.

Globe file photo: former Boston City Councillor Chuck Turner speaks outside the courthouse after his sentencing in January.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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