Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chuck Turner All In

William Ramsey Clark, Esq., will be 81 tomorrow. Apparently he'll celebrate by association with our own Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner. The latter is under indictment for extortion and lying to the FBI. The former seems to be leaving the stage very poorly.

In this era and this season of high-priced theater tickets, we should thank Turner. As drama queen extraordinaire, he presents his show for free.

I am sure I would not want to be a passenger when Chuck drives. It must be at high speed and right next to the canyon drop off. In this case, he chose a both famous and infamous lawyer. For a pissant case that either is or isn't simple bribery, yoking himself to a one-time anti-war humanitarian turned war-criminal defender is a look-at-me-right-now decision Turner is almost sure to regret.

As the Herald quotes local defense guru Robert George, this is a "high stakes gamble." He added that Clark's involvement"on behalf of any criminal defendant is a high-profile endorsement of a person’s innocence, (but) this was the defense attorney for people such as Saddam Hussein, which some people may take the wrong way."

I'm not huge on Wikipedia, but the entries for Clark and some of his more reviled client are rife with references and detail. For your amusement check:
The list of Clark's clients includes, Nazi concentration camp commandant Karl Linnas, Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana (eader in the Rwandan genocide), and contract killer Joe "Mad Dog" Sullivan.

In fairness, he was generally on defense teams for the worst of his clients. He also took on clients who were prosecuted for their anti-war activities here, as well as Lori Berenson, nabbed in Peru in a political incarceration. His few cases like those are overwhelmed by his choice of mass murders and war ciminals. Defending the unpopular client doesn't make one an Atticus Finch.

In Turner's instance, we can set aside his flair for the melodramatic. Instead, let's ask what the devil was he thinking? It almost has to be that the higher the profile of his prosecution, the greater his chances of prevailing.

He shouldn't count on it. Consider:
  • Milošević — Indicted 1999 and finally to trial when captured in 2002. A flood of witnesses to his genocide and war crimes was sure to bring conviction. He sicked, maybe exacerbated by the stress, and died in prison.
  • Karadžić — Finally captured after a long-term fugitive life. He is in the Hague awaiting his trial. He too faces many witnesses and much evidence of heinous crimes against humanity in killing thousands of Bosnian Muslims.
  • Hussein — Convicted of and hanged for his crimes.
So, Turner is not up for capital crimes. With the current indictments, at worst he'd face short-time prison and a few thousands of dollars in fines. Yet, it seems as though he would have gone with a better track record from his legal horse.

Many laugh at Turner for this theatrics, yet no one seems to question his guts, just his judgment. In advance of a public announcement today of his latest elevation (farther to fall, though) of this case, Turner's defense site includes:
Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General and recipient of the 2008 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, will be in Boston on Wednesday, December 17 to voice his support in the defense of Chuck Turner and demand that the government immediately drop the frame-up charges. He will focus attention on the role that the US Attorney’s office and the FBI has played in the politically motivated prosecutions that are taking place not just here in Boston but throughout the US. Ramsey Clark charges that that US Attorney Sullivan and the FBI have violated their constitutional duties and must be held accountable for their actions.
So, there you have it, brinkmanship at its plainest. I don't think he has the hand to deal. He thinks so.

Perhaps what attracted him was Clark's high profile, as high as Turner's ego. Perhaps instead it was Clark's comments that align with Turner's own to date. As the lawyer's Wikipedia entry reads:
On March 18, 2006, Clark attended the funeral of Slobodan Milošević. He declared: "History will prove Milošević was right. Charges are just that: charges. The trial did not have facts." He compared the trials of Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein by stating: "both trials are marred with injustice, both are flawed." He also condoned and justified Hussein and Milosevic's brutal regimes and their anti-American policies in which Clark described Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein as "both commanders who were courageous enough to fight more powerful countries."
Afternoon Follow-Up: Clark's charge into town (and charges) are well detailed at PolitickerMA. He not only called Turner's indictment racially and politically motivated, he tried to turn tables by calling for an investigation of U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. Clark further called for "a moratorium on any further action until a new and independent prosecutor can come in here and review this whole matter." As a lawyer and former AG of the nation, he might know more about how criminal cases advance. Meh.

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Anonymous said...

I have great respect for any lawyer willing to defend real nasties. Doesn't our system rely on them?

But what I don't understand is why Clark would accept such a minor pissant case as Turner's. Turner is a nobody in the grand scheme of things. Is Clark that hard up, or is there something personal driving his willingness to defend a city official against liquor license bribery?

massmarrier said...

I wonder too. All that bluster from Clark about the U.S. Attorney needing to be investigated is way premature and without basis. Plus, throwing down a racism card on this is pure theater. Maybe Clark got up on the wrong side of this Century.