Turner remains defiant ahead of sentencing

Judge to unveil decision today

AWAITING HIS FATE Chuck Turner appealed for leniency in a recent court filing, but he has never expressed contrition. AWAITING HIS FATE
Chuck Turner appealed for leniency in a recent court filing, but he has never expressed contrition.
By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / January 25, 2011

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A federal judge who recently chided corrupt politicians in Massachusetts for operating with impunity will decide the fate of Chuck Turner this afternoon.

US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock will sentence the former Boston city councilor nearly three months after his conviction for accepting a $1,000 bribe and lying about it to FBI agents. Prosecutors have urged the judge to impose a minimum prison sentence of two years and nine months, saying Turner perjured himself on the witness stand and has amplified his crimes by grandstanding at rallies.

Turner appealed for leniency in a recent court filing, but remained unrepentant even as he asked to be spared prison. The 12-page sentencing memorandum described Turner’s decades of public service and the financial hardship wrought by his conviction, but he maintained his innocence.

Turner’s lawyer suggested in the memorandum that his client was the victim of a government conspiracy against people of color, writing that his case has the appearance of “selective prosecution’’ because the only two public officials charged in the case were “both of African-American descent.’’

“The circumstances of the case have the appearance of an agenda, and leaves open the debate on the existence of what is known as the FBI’s ‘Fruhmenschen’ project,’ ’’ the lawyer, Barry P. Wilson, wrote in the sentencing memorandum filed Friday. “The Fruhmenschen objective, as research suggests, is to target and eliminate black elected officials.’’

Wilson referred to the “Fruhmenschen project’’ in a footnote supporting his contention that the judge should deviate from federal sentencing guidelines and give Turner probation. Wilson could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Fruhmenschen is a German word meaning early man. It apparently refers to an alleged FBI policy in the late 1970s and early 1980s to investigate prominent black officials, according to a 1988 account in the Washington Post from the trial of a former Maryland state senator.

According to a Globe account, the former Maryland state senator, Clarence M. Mitchell III, spoke in 1991 at Boston College about “an orchestrated conspiracy on the part of the Justice Department in this country to do away with outspoken, strong black leadership.’’

Turner has often framed his prosecution in racial terms, comparing himself to “people in the civil rights movement over years that have been targeted.’’

In the sentencing memorandum, Turner also “venomously denies committing perjury’’ when he testified that he did not recall a videotaped meeting with a paid government witness who handed him $1,000. Turner’s lawyer noted that his client did not deny sitting down with the man, but could not recall their meeting.

Earlier this month, Woodlock delivered a stinging rebuke to Dianne Wilkerson, a former state senator, handing down a 3 1/2-year prison term as he lamented that “sentencing imposed for criminal conduct’’ for politicians “hasn’t been sufficient.’’

Although Turner and Wilkerson were ensnared in the same government sting, there are significant differences in their cases.

Wilkerson had a previous federal conviction in 1997 for failing to file her income taxes for two years.

She was accused of repeatedly accepting bribes totaling $23,500 and ultimately pleaded guilty without a trial.

Turner will be sentenced today for accepting a single payment. He has never expressed contrition, even after a jury convicted him of four felonies.

“There is no support that his office was ‘up for sale,’ ’’ Turner’s lawyer wrote in the sentencing memorandum. “The facts in this case do not justify incarceration.’’

Andrew Ryan can be reached at