The state Bar Counsel filed a complaint against state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson last Friday, accusing her of lying under oath in an effort to overturn her nephew’s manslaughter conviction.
The counsel, which investigates and prosecutes professional complaints against lawyers, filed the petition with the state Board of Bar Overseers. The Boston Democrat — who’s running a sticker campaign for re-election after losing the primary — could face disbarment.
The complaint alleges that Wilkerson signed a false affidavit and lied at a 2005 court hearing seeking a new trial for Jermaine Berry, who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 1995 and again in a 2001 retrial. It says Wilkerson also lied to the bar counsel in its investigation of the allegations against her.
Both Wilkerson and her attorney Max D. Stern strongly disagreed with the merits of the case and questioned the timing of charges during a hotly contested political race.
“No one has ever identified any motive for Senator Wilkerson to make up her testimony,” Stern said in a statement. “Her testimony incriminated one nephew in the course of exculpating the other. Both of these young men were very dear to her. The only conceivable reason for her to come forward in those circumstances was to discharge what she saw as her moral and ethical duty — however painful — to right a wrong.”
Wilkerson was particularly concerned about the timing of the charges.
“To say that … [the] decision to move forward with a complaint might be politically motivated may be the understatement of the decade,” said Wilkerson.
“Not surprisingly,” she added, “there will be no opportunity to schedule a hearing before the Nov. 4 election.”
According to Stern, the bar association’s review was initiated by a complaint filed by the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association in August 2006 on behalf of the two detectives who were assigned to the 1994 case.
In his statement, Stern accuses both detectives of fabrication. Stern cited a case against Det. Herbert Spellman, the principal homicide investigator in the Jermaine Berry case, which found Spellman had engaged in “egregious fabrication of evidence.”
“According to the complaint,” Stern said, “Spellman ‘knowingly and intentionally falsified, recklessly fabricated, distorted, misled and deceived the grand jury.’”
The complaint alleges that Wilkerson deliberately signed a false affidavit and repeatedly lied under oath when she claimed that she was present when a distant cousin gave a statement to police that suggested he, not Berry, had fatally stabbed Hazel Mack in 1994.
The senator indicated that police did not have records of the statement because detectives turned their tape recorder on and off during their interview with her distant cousin, according to the complaint.
The complaint says Wilkerson arranged for her cousin to turn himself in for police interviews and the senator did not attend the unrecorded and recorded sessions.
A judge later ruled that Wilkerson’s testimony that she was present during the interview was “irreconcilable with the tape recording and the police record of the interview,” according to the complaint.
Wilkerson was suspended from practicing law for one year in 1999 after a tax evasion conviction and did not seek reinstatement.
Stern said he was confident that Wilkerson will be completely exonerated.
Sonia Chang-Diaz’s razor-thin victory over state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson in the Sept. 16 state Democratic primary has exposed a fissure in the Second Suffolk District. On one side: the blacks, Latinos and Asians who supported the incumbent. On the other: the white progressives who backed Chang-Diaz. More »
The audience at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Grove Hall, comprised mostly of blacks, Latinos and Cape Verdeans, erupted in a standing ovation at state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson’s announcement, even as the senator spoke about the uphill battle her campaign would face in a rematch with primary victor and Democratic nominee Sonia Chang-Diaz on Nov. 4. More »
Despite an organization packed with some of the most seasoned campaign veterans in Boston’s black and Latino communities, longtime incumbent Dianne Wilkerson lost the Second Suffolk District seat in the state Senate to challenger Sonia Chang-Diaz, falling short in the state Democratic primary election by just over 200 votes. More »