Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Cork in Chuck Turner

So, is it true you've been in withdrawal with no news about Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner? Well, Adam over at Universal Hub has the big needle ready for you. He compiled the new docs in the case to ease your pain.

The Turner troops have not responded...yet, but they surely shall. The news is that Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman of the U.S. District Court here cuffed the obstreperous pol. He granted the prosecution request to stifle Turner from going public with any discovery material in his bribery case.

The simultaneous keening of woe-is-me and racism must already be filling Turner's lungs. On the face of it, there's some cause.

Prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, does seem to suffer a bit from DA syndrome. He seems to see himself as right and righteous, and anyone he charges as guilty, guilty, guilty per se. It is unfortunate as both current defendants with linked charges that he:
  1. Did not wait until he also had evidence on some non-African-American crooks. He got the only black state senator, Dianne Wilkerson and Turner.
  2. Did not take the time to build a great instead of merely good case against Turner.

Those seem sins springing from the arrogance of a self-defined crusader.

Start with Hillman's St. Patrick's Day eve decision. It's only five pages of meat and as clear and concise a legal document as you'll see this month.

His decision details the inequality in permitting Sullivan to distribute pix of the pols grabbing the dough they did not report while ordering Turner to stop his melodramatic spewing of evidence to counter the obvious. In no small part, Turner lost this motion because he so heavily overplayed his hand in rallies, press conferences and media appearances. He's never been subtle and never been shy, but his theater suggests he may not be anywhere as bright as his I-have-a-Harvard-degree cutout suggests.

Hillman cites at length a U.S. Supreme Court case [Seattle Times v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 104 S.Ct. 2199 (1984)] whose findings detail conditions under which discovery material protective orders do not violate defendants' First Amendment rights. Those on are page three of Hillman's ruling.

Here, Sullivan's people has a much better sent of arguments (see Adam's other references). On one hand, Hillman agrees that the release of pix of the pols taking cash "...while clearly permissible, added little to the establishment of probably cause and may have served to ratchet up the publicity." I would add that this is more of Sullivan's version of petty drama.

Yet, Hillman continues, "However, that does not mean that the defendants can engage in a ‘tit for tat’ in the media. Such conduct would only result in a escalation of charges and countercharges that would infect the fair trial rights of all parties." This is where a calmer and out-of-character Turner would have bided his time and played the unfairness card at the trial or plea level. He just couldn't do it.

The emotional aspects aside, what seems to have swayed Hillman to Sullivan's side is that there seems to be a ton of sensitive discovery information. Some of it involves unrevealed grand-jury witnesses. On top of the likelihood that these data might serve to intimidate corruption witnesses, the ruling found:
Additionally, the government has argued persuasively that given the sheer volume of materials, requiring it to redact all sensitive information would not only be time consuming, but would render many reports incomplete and, in all likelihood, would result in protracted discovery disputes. The government also argues that there is information not germane to the case which would generate media interest and cause needless harm to the defendants and innocent third parties.
In other words, he didn't want any opportunity to clog up the prosecution and didn't trust Turner's side to be honorable.

Yet, Hillman expects and enabled the bluster to continue minus discovery stuff. As he wrote, "...the proposed protective order is narrowly drawn to cover only discovery and that it does not prevent the defendants from discussing information learned from an independent source."

That would be a more thoughtful and measured public argument with less drama. That robs us of much of Turner's entertainment value in the name of fair trials for Wilkerson and Turner. Once she cuts her plea deal, we'll see how he and his attorneys play it.

Next Day Follow-Up: Tip of the toupee to Universal Hub's Adam for checking Turner's main website. The councilor says he'll run again but step down by 2012. It reads like it has hidden unnoticed there awhile, saying he'd wait until February to discuss agenda.

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