Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Turner Truth Time

A thing about this Chuck Turner sentencing show that bugs me doesn't seem popular with pundits. Most point out that Turner has been consistently obnoxious, but his style may have been obstreperous his whole life. A few concur with him that the whole case sure looks racist. Many (including I) have said or written that the FBI/U.S. Attorney procedures need oversight and correction.

What's been gnawing on me may have more to do with upbringing than anything else. Having spent much of my childhood in a segregated South, I am uncomfortable with the prosecutors' demands and sentencing statements.

I see today that WBUR's David Boeri got a leading defense attorney to propose that Turner is being punished for insisting on his innocence. "What the government is doing in this sentencing memorandum is suggesting that Turner, for insisting he is not guilty, should be punished extra severely," said Harvey Silverglate. "That’s highly improper."

To me, that's approaching reality, but isn't there. First of all, in his trial where he insisted on testifying, Turner did not take the innocent approach. Instead, repeatedly and not very believably, he claimed to have no recollection of the meeting, the man, the money. Even after seeing himself on video, he played with statements of maybe that was he and maybe that was money...he just didn't recall.

After the guilty verdicts though, he has said non-stop that he is innocent. There's where the prosecution is pushing for the heavy hand to crush Turner.

As a Southerner, although I've lived here for three decades, I remember that attitude. It's the boy-you-gonna-get-yourself-in-real-trouble one.

It frequently was used in a racist context, spoken to people those in power considered inferiors. It wasn't only with black folk though. Poor white people, those in serving positions and so forth were all supposed to mind their manners and know their place.

In a very harsh memo to Judge Douglas Woodlock, the prosecution asked for 33 to 41 months for him. The request seemed largely based on Turner's claims that the sting operation that entrapped him was illegal, immoral, indefensible and so forth. He has publicly called racism and named the U.S. Attorneys involved for trying to roust a black pol. In short, he has shown the wrong attitude — no admission of guilt and certainly no contrition.

Strangely enough, Dianne Wilkerson did not fare well, even with her clumsy atonement. She admitted guilt, but still tried to make excuses for herself. That seems in her nature.

I don't know if Turner would have fared better had he admitted guilt to the judge. He didn't and he won't, so that is moot. However, I suspect strongly, that if he showed he knew his place, as they used to say down South, the prosecution would not have had the leverage they did to attack him in that brutal pre-sentencing memo.

If I were Turner or his strong supporters, I would be particularly angry at what appears to be trying to punishing an uppity, to use another Southernism, man.

In sentencing Wilkerson, Woodlock saved his strongest scolding for the political climate of corruption more than for her specifically. He could well look beyond the almost hysterical wording of the prosecutor's demands for harsh sentencing.

Sure Turner has the right to claim innocence, even after he was found guilty on four felonies. As many others who have written stories on people in prison, I recall one incarcerated person after another saying he was innocent and laughing about that being true of everyone there.

Instead, the prosecution seems furious that he accuses them and their standard procedures of malicious, unreasonable and biased acts. They don't want to hear that and this is their chance to slap down someone who dares confront them.

We'll know in about two hours.

PM Update: Just short of 5 PM, Turner gets 3 and 3, three years in prison and three of supervised release. Now the Globe reports Turner will appeal and has asked Woodlock to consider a stay of his order to report to prison on March 25th.

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