US judge questions publicity in cases

Wilkerson, Turner arrests at issue

By Glen Johnson
Associated Press / July 3, 2009
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A federal judge yesterday ordered prosecutors to produce affidavits explaining why photographs were released and publicity generated following the arrests of two Boston politicians on corruption charges last year.

The lead prosecutor in the case said he would have to determine whether he could comply.

Judge Douglas Woodlock told a pretrial hearing audience he wants to evaluate whether prosecutors tried to “gin things up’’ among the public after the arrests of former state senator Dianne Wilkerson and City Councilor Chuck Turner.

Woodlock said he wanted to examine whether disclosures in their complaints - including widely disseminated photographs of the two Democrats allegedly accepting bribes, Wilkerson’s in her bra - were more “fulsome’’ than necessary. He also said he wanted to understand any reasoning behind showing the defendants being led to court, any use of restraints, and how the defendants represented a risk of flight or a threat.

Woodlock said he wanted affidavits by July 16 from anyone involved in the decisions, potentially including former US attorney Michael Sullivan, a Republican appointee of former president George W. Bush. Assistant US Attorney John McNeil, who is presenting the government’s case, said he would have to determine whether Justice Department rules allow him to comply.

McNeil also offered what amounted to a defense, saying the complaints - including photographs - were reviewed by a federal magistrate before the arrest warrants were issued. He also said surprise arrests, restraints, and publicity can be used to prevent evidence destruction and witness intimidation.

Woodlock’s order dovetailed with concerns raised in a prehearing e-mail sent by Turner. Turner alleged that Sullivan targeted him and Wilkerson, two prominent black politicians, at the behest of former attorney general John Ashcroft - for whom he now works.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Ashcroft, sent a succinct e-mail response. “LOL,’’ he wrote, using computer parlance for “laughing out loud.’’