A federal judge today sentenced former city councilor and civil rights crusader Charles “Chuck” Turner to three years in jail for pocketing a $1,000 bribe while in office and then lying about it to the FBI.
U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock sentenced Turner to 36 months this afternoon and three years of supervised release. And, the judge added, he must repay the $1,000 bribe.
The Harvard-educated Turner, 70, of Roxbury, was facing up to 35 years in the slammer for taking a wad of cash from Boston businessman Ron Wilburn during a 2007 “preacher’s handshake” in Turner’s district office. Wilburn claimed to be seeking political muscle to obtain a liquor license for a proposed nightclub in Roxbury, but was videotaping the exchange as an undercover operative for the FBI.
“Mr. Turner was sentenced to prison today because of the choices he made and the actions he took during the course of this case,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “It is the obligation of every elected official to be ethical and honest, and in this case, Mr. Turner was neither. Public corruption is more than a violation of the law, it erodes the public’s trust in the very system that was designed to protect us.”
Turner left the courthouse, head held high, to supporters chants of “We stand with Chuck!”
“This has been a horrendous situation for my wife and family,” Turner told reporters. “What happened today is as much a miscarriage of justice as the conviction. I’m innocent.”
Turner vowed to use his time behind bars well, just as he was taught in the 1960s when he was beating a drum for civil rights.
“We are in a struggle for future generations,” Turner boomed. “If some of us fall along the way, the others have to keep up the struggle. Hopefully I’ll get out of jail and rejoin the struggle.
“If I die in prison,” he added, “all I want is an autopsy. As far as I’m concerned, we’re at war.”
Woodlock said $1,000 may seem like “short money … but it’s real money. You’d remember it. Anyone would remember it. The right thing to do is give it back — immediately. That’s not what Mr. Turner did.”