MA politician charged with taking bribe

November 21, 2008 9:52:19 AM PST
FBI agents arrested a Boston city council member Friday after he was allegedly videotaped taking a $1,000 bribe from an undercover agent in an expanding investigation into corruption at City Hall and the Massachusetts Statehouse. Chuck Turner was taken into custody about 7 a.m. at City Hall, less than a month after his records were subpoenaed as part of the investigation into former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who was charged last month after the FBI said she was photographed stuffing bribe money under her sweater.

Turner was charged with attempted extortion and making false statements for allegedly accepting $1,000 from the same confidential informant who said he paid bribes to Wilkerson in exchange for help getting a liquor license for a Boston nightclub.

An affidavit said Turner was taped in August 2007 taking a wad of money from the informant while in his district office, then denied the payment when confronted by FBI agents on the day Wilkerson was arrested.

The informant attempted to make a second payment in September 2007 just outside the City Council chamber but could not arrange time alone with Turner, according to the affidavit.

Turner told the FBI agents after Wilkerson's arrest that corruption was pervasive among politicians.

"If you took out all corrupt politicians, you'd take out 90 percent and be left with us 10 percent," he said.

Turner was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Worcester Friday afternoon. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.

The affidavit summarized what an FBI agent said was "a portion of a covert investigation into the criminal activities of Turner and others." It said more than 150 recordings had been made as part of the investigation.

A similar FBI affidavit filed in connection with Wilkerson's case refers to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, City Council President Maureen Feeney, Senate President Therese Murray and other city and state officials - most of whom have acknowledged receiving subpoenas in the case. Menino, Feeney and Murray have denied any wrongdoing.

Wilkerson was arrested Oct. 28 and indicated Tuesday on eight counts surrounding allegations she accepted $23,500 in bribes for arranging a liquor license and land transfer for an FBI informant and undercover agents she thought were businessmen.

The Boston Democrat was the only black member of the state Senate before resigning Wednesday under the threat of expulsion by her colleagues.

In the FBI affidavit associated with her case, undercover agents are described as asking a Wilkerson associate "whether anyone needed to be paid to earn their support."

The associate said Wilkerson deserved "the biggest chunk," but that Wilkerson's House representative deserved $5,000 and other "small timers" she "orchestrates" - including a second House member and a Boston city councilor - should be paid $1,000.

None of the individuals was named, and the affidavit did not say if the money was ever paid. Wilkerson is represented in the House by Rep. Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat who also received a subpoena.

Turner, Wilkerson's city councilor, is a fellow African-American who is a Harvard-educated member of the Green-Rainbow Party. He also is a veteran community activist who has been on the City Council since 2000, and has been a staunch Wilkerson supporter.

He recently told a Boston newspaper that an undercover agent came to his office last year wearing a hidden video camera as part of the bureau's investigation of Wilkerson.

"I imagine that they were trying to see if I was going to take a bribe," Turner told the Jamaica Plain Gazette, adding he never has. He suggested the only reason for such a visit would be to "entrap" him.

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