By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Because he might defend himself

Today we offer a postscript to Chuck Turner’s absurd call for legal sanctions against media outlets that fail to presume his innocence in an ongoing federal corruption probe. Now the government wants to take away Turner’s First Amendment rights. According to Boston Globe reporter Shelley Murphy:

Federal prosecutors urged a judge yesterday to prohibit Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner from revealing, or even talking about, evidence and witnesses the government is relying on to convince a jury that he pocketed a $1,000 bribe.

The best part is a letter written to the judge by Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil, in which he says in part: “Mr. Turner has held a series of press conferences and rallies since he was charged in this matter, aimed in part at bolstering his character and attacking the government’s motives for seeking an indictment against him from the grand jury.” And this is wrong?

McNeil goes on to say that Turner might “selectively” quote from the evidence against him, which could have the effect of “indirectly” intimidating witnesses and otherwise harming the case against him.

According to Laurel Sweet and Ed Mason, writing in the Boston Herald, the gag order sought by prosecutors could also derail an internal investigation by the Boston City Council.

The idea that Turner should be denied a look at the evidence against him unless he agrees to give up his First Amendment right to defend himself in public is offensive and outrageous. If prosecutors fear they can’t win without Turner’s silence, then they must be worried that they don’t have much of a case.

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  1. Brad

    The idea that prosecutors have a weak case against Turner surprises you? Whatever made you think this case was anything but a political witch hunt in the first place?The yahoos in the Boston criminal justice system couldn’t convict their way out of a wet paper bag. These are the same guys who have a miserable 33% (or worse) arrest rate and more than 25% acquittal rate at trial.Besides, the fact that ONLY Turner and Wilkerson were indicted tells you all you need to know. I ain’t saying they’re innocent, but they sure as hell aren’t the only guilty ones.

  2. NewsHound

    Agree. Chuck Turner is legally innocent until proven guilty.In the meantime, as a significant elected official who makes more than a usual effort to expose himself in the public domain, commentary about him is wide open.He, like the rest of us, is entitled to his First Amendment rights and it is absurd that government legals would even think of soiling his precious civil rights. But, it is apparently happening. Mr. Turner is charged with a serious crime and violation of public trust, to say the least, and certainly should be afforded all the normal and usual rights of defense.Our government should not be bringing shaky, willy nilly cases against anybody, nor should wrongdoing by public officials be overlooked due to careless and negligence by those charged with overseeing violations.

  3. O'Reilly

    A judge in a criminal case has the right to gag the parties in order to insure a fair trial. That said, the USA has already published his best visual evidence of Turner’s corruption in Boston media, so how then can the USA expect the judge to rule in his favor on his motion to gag Turner from talking about that evidence and other evidence Turner receives from the USA in discovery?This may not be about actually seeking a gag as opposed to overwhelming the defense with paper and motions. If so, is that an ethical tactic for the people?

  4. O-FISH-L

    I, too, was surprised at the US Attorney attempting to get the gag order, not only because of Turner’s constitutionally protected freedom of speech, but because what Turner is doing to himself is every prosecutor’s dream.Every defense attorney I know has as rule #1 for their clients, “Never speak to anyone about this case.” Every time Turner takes to the microphone, I laugh at what the defense bar must be thinking.As for Brad’s comment about the 33% arrest rate and 25% acquittal rate, those are Boston Police cases backed by mostly urban Boston witnesses and heard by Suffolk County (mostly Boston) jurors. Those stats have little significance to the Turner case, which is federal. While the witnesses might be urban Boston, the one we know about is an upstanding businessman, unlike many of the witnesses to gang violence. There are also law enforcement eyewitnesses and electronic evidence in the Turner case that is usually lacking in a BPD murder case. Most importantly and perhaps Turner’s biggest problem is that his case will draw from a statewide jury pool, not the just the skeptical Suffolk County crowd.Still, I’m reminded of hardened but polite criminal I once dealt with who had a large tattoo of a mathematical equation on his biceps: 12+1= 1/2. When I asked him where he learned arithmetic, he informed me that 12 jurors, plus one judge, equals half a chance. Turner can take some solace in that truism.

  5. NewsHound

    All of us as citizens deserve to have our criminals, and those so accused, dealt with in a honest, ethical way. Otherwise, our justice system will join so many other areas of our civilization suffering a melt down.It is important to all of us that Mr. Turner is dealt with appropriately, in a most honest and ethical manner regardless of our suspicions of any wrongdoing, or opinions of going about his defense in an uncharacteristic or unique style. And, of course, the same applies to the governor of Illinois.

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