Dateline: Downtown: Turn, Turn, Turner

Dan Roche

The Globe reported on February 20th that Ronald Wilburn, the FBI’s rat in the Dianne Wilkerson/Chuck Turner corruption cases, pleaded out of the Bureau’s corruption sting, largely because the only politicians being targeted were African-Americans. Funny how that works, isn’t it. One might argue that Turner’s real crime is not being an Irish Catholic gangster from South Boston.

Chuck has been in high dudgeon ever since the charges were leveled late last year that he accepted a $1,000 bribe to push along a liquor license and land transfer through City Hall. My general rule of thumb for these cases is “guilty until proven innocent”. After all, my friends and distinguished colleagues, we live in Massachusetts, home of the bean and the cod, where Bulgers talk only to Connollys, and Connollys engineer fraud.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think Turner is crooked. And if he is, he’s small potatoes. Wilburn said, “Chuck isn’t a thief. Chuck is a victim of circumstance.” That may be so. A case of Legislating While Black, forwarded by some racist at Center Plaza. I don’t doubt it. Until the FBI releases the picture that allegedly shows him accepting the golden handshake, it’s an open question. But the Bureau is playing their hand close to the vest, so what do you do with that? To go with a gut instinct, people who are crooked lawyer up, they do it fast and they try to keep things under wraps. (See “Wilkerson, Dianne.”) Chuck’s first response was to go haywire.

Old Mass Media friend/gadfly Jason Pramas wrote in a column for his Open Media Boston project that “[the media has] mocked Turner at every turn for the last few months. When he maintained his innocence, they scoffed. When he said that the FBI and Republican former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan had concocted the whole thing as part of a move to pick off black politicians and make themselves look busy and tough, they said he was a conspiracist.”

I agree in large measure. However, I do think Councilor Turner is a conspiracist. The caveat here is, sometimes conspiracy theories turn out to be true. He is running for a seventh term in office despite the questions, and says on his website, “if we are to use this situation as a learning tool, we have to avoid their objective of demoralizing us and making us feel as if we are powerless to resist their oppression and psychological warfare.”

So there you have it. Psychological warfare. Chuck’s only problem, if indeed he is guilty, is that he didn’t play the game well enough. There’s a science to this, folks.

I don’t know if you pay much attention to the Massachusetts Legislature, but one G is chump change when it comes to corruption in this state. We have seen three consecutive House Speakers resign in shame, and this column may open a pool on when the new Speaker, Robert DeLeo, gets run out of office.

Billy Bulger, after he was kicked out, was named the President of the UMass system! Hilarious, in a laugh-to-keep-from-crying way. Tommy Finneran, whose mother swam in the filthy Neponset River almost every day of her adult life (bet you didn’t know that one) got a talk show instead of jail time. Sal DiMasi, perhaps the most decent man of the three, and who at least knew that it’s better to leave the party before you get 86’d, is going into private practice, where he will use the connections he made during thirty years in public office to enrich himself.

Play the game. This is Massachusetts politics, where you go along to get along, and when you get kicked out of office for too much getting along you use your golden parachute to land on a gilded lily. But it isn’t about politics. I think Turner’s politics are (for the most part) fairly goofy, though he is a hard-working guy, and I respect that in anyone. It’s about integrity, and I know a railroading when I see it. I may be wrong, but we shall see. Good luck, Chuck.