|(The Boston Globe)|
FOR A guy who loathes and distrusts the power of federal law enforcement, Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner sure made it easy for federal prosecutors to paint him as a crook and a liar. His confusing and unconvincing testimony on the stand must have eliminated any doubt among jurors that Turner accepted a $1,000 cash bribe and later lied to the FBI about it.
A six-term councilor whose political style is a throwback to the 1960s, Turner marches to his own beat. And that march could now lead straight to federal prison. Turner was convicted yesterday on corruption charges, and the attempted extortion conviction alone carries a penalty of up to 20 years. The conviction stemmed from Turner’s acceptance of $1,000 bribe from a former nightclub owner looking to finagle a liquor license from the Boston Licensing Board.
At this point, no one needs another lecture about the taint of public corruption; the harm it does to confidence in all elected officials is self-evident. More noteworthy in this case is the damage caused by leaders who feed constituents a steady diet of lies. Turner has been described by his supporters as a man of great principle who speaks truth to power. But during his career, he has accused police — with no justification — of committing horrible crimes, tried to pawn off pictures from a pornographic website as visual proof of American soldiers raping Iraqi women, and lied with a straight face when confronted with video evidence of him palming a wad of cash from the FBI’s cooperating witness. Turner describes the exchange as a demure “preacher’s handshake.’’ Only in Turner’s world is payola infused with the Holy Spirit.
Turner, to be fair, isn’t a venal man. He doesn’t live it up on ill-begotten funds. But he has spread unreality among his supporters for decades. And that may be his greatest crime. In a Boston neighborhood that so desperately needs sensible leadership to address crime, joblessness, and poor education, Turner has fed his constituents a steady diet of political fantasy.