The following is the text of an address Chuck Turner gave
on March 24, 2011. Also on the 24th, he was a guest on
the Mark Thompson show on Sirius/XM radio. Click here
to listen to that interview. BlackCommentator.com plans
to continue publishing Mr. Turner’s writing while he is
I begin a three year sentence in the Hazelton Federal Prison
in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. The sentence is based
on the jury’s acceptance of the prosecution accusation that
I had accepted $1000 to file a hearing order re discrimination
in the issuance of liquor licenses. It is also based on
three charges that I lied to the FBI officials when they
asked three different questions re my interactions with
addition, to these counts at the sentencing the prosecutor
and judge agreed without a jury that I had perjured myself
when I testified that I did not remember their agent and
his actions. By charging me with perjury, they justified
a three year sentence despite the fact that the conviction
was my first offense and had been set up the US prosecutor.
case represents yet another example of the historical use
of U.S. prosecutorial, investigative, and judicial powers
to achieve political objectives. A cursory examination of
US history will show that the legal system has been used
to give those in control a tool to eliminate political opposition,
going back to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act,
passed in 1791 two years after the Constitution was ratified.
Edgar Hoover became a household word through his organizing
of an army of lawyers, called the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
These G-men were armed with investigative powers enabling
then to harass and intimidate those who Hoover and his allies
saw as threats. While the targeting of the Black movement
is clear, we need to recognize that this flagrant use of
power was turned on anyone who dissented.
sting operation, targeting of Senator Wilkerson and I, initiated
by former US Attorney Sullivan is part of that same pattern.
That is, the sting operation initiated by Sullivan was focused
on taking two strong, vocal Black advocates out of action;
it was not about corruption in the issuing of liquor licenses.
In my case, there had never been any allegations of improper
financial actions so there was no legal justification for
them even instituting the sting.
as the prosecution’s chief agent, Ron Wilburn, has publicly
stated if you are serious about weeding out corruption in
the issuing of liquor licenses in Boston, your investigation
will have to have a wider focus than two Black politicians
who probably have fewer liquor licenses in their districts
than in any other districts in the City. I have always
believed that Sullivan’s key personal motivation for the
sting was his desire as a career politician to run for future
office and his belief that getting rid of us would be a
political feather in his cap in this state, particularly
if he ran against Governor Patrick.
thoroughly explore the motivations of US Attorney Sullivan,
however, you have to put his actions in the context of a
Bush administration which had fired through the collusion
of Karl Rove and the US Attorney General Gonzales eight
US Attorney Generals less than a year before the MA US Prosecutor’s
office initiated their sting focused on Senator Wilkerson
and I. In fact, I have received reports that the US Attorney
General met with Sullivan here in Boston just prior to the
signing of the Wilburn contract. I also think that it is
significant that on the day, US Attorney Sullivan resigned
in March 2008, he announced that he was opening a law office
in Boston with his partner, John “Patriot Act” Ashcroft
who opened offices in Dallas, Houston, and St. Louis in
that same month, also headed by former US Attorneys.
I can’t speak to the interests of the Bush administration
in removing the Senator, I think their targeting me in 2007
was due to my sponsoring that year a resolution that the
Boston City Council approved 13 to 0, instructing the MA
Congressional delegation to initiate action within Congress
to withdraw our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and bring
the money being spent on these wars back to the US to support
the rebuilding of Boston and other urban areas.
I believe they thought they could use their connections
with the press and the City Council to remove me without
going through the process of an expensive court action.
Therefore, two hours after I was arrested at City Hall at
approximately 6 a.m., pictures were sent around the country
allegedly showing me accepting a bribe that I had extorted
from the FBI agent. These pictures were taken by the FBI/MA
US Prosecutor agent, Ron Wilburn, whom they had paid $30,000
to take down the Senator and I.
noon on the same day while I sat in a federal jail in Worcester
waiting to find out why I was arrested, City Councilor Feeney
after consulting with Mayor’s lawyer, William Sinnott and
others, announced she was stripping me of my committee chairmanships
and memberships. She also announced that there would be
a hearing with the Council regarding my fate on the next
business day. However, when five hundred people rallied
to attend the hearing, Councilor Feeney called it off and
said that she would await my indictment before taking action.
Attorney Sullivan made it clear in his press conference
on the day of my arrest that he was going to use all his
resources to try to force me off the Council and achieve
his objective of silencing me. However, his plan backfired
in that from the moment, I walked out of the Worcester Court
on the day of my arraignment, I loudly and strongly proclaimed
my innocence. My lawyers and others warned me that it would
be best to keep my mouth shut and leave the work to them.
that strategy had a logic to it, as a sitting City Councilor
who planned to run the following year, I believed I had
no alternative but to fight back verbally. So during the
month following my arrest, I staged a number of rallies
to proclaim my innocence. One of these rallies even included
former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who in his capacity
as President of the Internal Action Center came to Boston
to support my innocence.
January 5, 2010, less than two months after I was arrested
Atty Sullivan began to realize that he was losing the battle
in the Court of public opinion and initiated his next action
to silence me by having his agent, AUSA John McNeil, file
a motion to require that before his office would share any
of “their evidence” with my lawyer, I would have to sign
“gag” order agreeing not to reveal any information received
from them. Since I saw this as a trap to put me in jail
as I spoke publicly about my innocence, I refused to accept
the evidence after the judge granted the motion.
next ploy was to file a motion to require that I take the
evidence whether I wanted to do it or not. Since I saw this
as an abuse of power to which I would not submit, I told
my lawyers to send back the evidence to the US Attorney’s
office it came from. My position was that I was willing
to go to jail in defense of my first amendment rights.
the judge granted the motion that I had to take the evidence,
they did not move to find me in contempt of court even though
I refused to take it. This dance regarding the gag order
and my refusal to take their “evidence” continued until
I was returned to office with an over 60% plurality and
agreed to take the evidence even with their gag order since
the Court of Public Opinion in my district had spoken in
support of me through the election.
my purpose is not to retry the case this evening, I am not
going to go through my analysis of the evidence. However,
during the next month, I will put on paper my analysis of
their evidence and why I believe that it proves that I am
in fact innocent. This paper and other reflections can be
accessed at SupportChuckTurner.com
and the national on line newspaper, Black Commentator. com.
I also suggest getting a copy of Shirley Kressel’s article
on my innocence in a recent issue of the South End News.
moving to my recommendations on actions to curb the prosecutorial
abuse/terrorism that we see at all levels of the American
criminal justice system, let me share the words of MA Asst
US Attorney McNeil’s statement in his sentencing memorandum
that shows his indignation at my thinking that I had freedom
of speech despite the fact that they had accused me of a
McNeil said in his sentencing memorandum filed on January
20th of this year,
conduct has been the antithesis of acceptance of responsibility.
Instead, his conduct has affirmatively promoted disrespect
for the law, has demeaned the seriousness of his offense,
has debased his public office, and has eroded the public’s
trust in law enforcement and the criminal justice system
Neil continues, “Turner’s calculated and persistent attacks
on local and federal law enforcement agencies, designed
to deflect attention from his own corrupt conduct, have
been corrosive to respect for important public institutions
and the rule of law. From the day he was confronted with
his crime, Turner has engaged in an incendiary campaign
of misinformation, obfuscation and blame.” (McNeil then
has a footnote referencing statements I had made in the
papers regarding their legal assault on me).
question for us as organizers is what are we going to do
to stop the prosecutorial abuse not only here but also across
the country at all levels of the system. Harvey Silverglate’s
Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent
provides excellent documentation of this prosecutorial misconduct
first step here in Boston should be to support the call
for action that will be made by Laila Murad on behalf of
the Coalition sponsoring this forum. I fully support their
idea of calling organizations together in two weeks to begin
planning hearings that can take place in the summer to further
expose the injustices at the MA Justice Department.
also think that we need to study the Grand Jury system that
gives inordinate power to prosecutors at all levels of the
criminal justice system. We can not afford to allow the
prosecutors to continue to have a compliant tool that makes
it almost impossible to avoid indictments initiated by the
reform that we need to explore is the limitation of information
that the prosecutors can publicly reveal and penalties for
the media that go beyond the guidelines. While I support
the general principal of the public’s right to know, I do
not feel that prosecutors should have the right to try cases
publicly before the defendant’s lawyer even has the basic
evidence being used to bring an indictment.
believe that we also have to pull the cloak off the federal
and state prosecutors who are initiating these inappropriate
legal actions. I am fascinated that among progressive we
talk about FBI actions in various locations but rarely focus
on the prosecutors who actually have the power to direct
the focus of the FBI’s action. In we continue to allow the
prosecutors to operate under the cloak of darkness we will
continue to be plagued by their actions.
we have to recognize that if we are going to build a country
that our children and our children’s children can respect
and appreciate, we have to find a way to make justice the
hallmark of our criminal justice system, and work to eliminate
the political expediency that hypocritically parades itself
within the system as justice.
who wish to continue this discussion can write to me at
the Hazelwood Penitentiary, P.O. Box 2000, Bruceton Mills,
West Virginia 26525.
Board Member Chuck Turner - Served as a member of the Boston City Council for ten years
and eleven months. He was a member and founder of the Fund
the Dream campaign and was the Chair of the Council’s Human
Rights Committee, and Vice Chair of the Hunger and Homelessness
here to contact Mr. Turner (At this time we do not know if Turner
is permitted to send and receive email.)