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Chuck Turner: Not the usual federal suspect

12/3/2008, 3:25 a.m.

The Office of U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan was unavailable to respond to Turner’s charges. Nor was the office available to comment on a slew of charges from the Green-Rainbow Party, of which Turner is a member.

On Tuesday, the Green-Rainbow Party asked the FBI to drop its bribery charges against Turner and called for an investigation into what it called the “targeting practices” of the FBI, to determine if the federal agency had been used for political ends.

Describing the 11-page FBI affidavit as a “flawed document putting forth an entirely unconvincing, dubious case,” the Green-Rainbow Party said in a release that “the so-called ‘damning’ evidence on the videotape is merely a snippet showing the FBI informant, Ron Wilburn, shoving an unsolicited wad of bills into Councilor Turner’s hands.”

The Green-Rainbow Party also argued that the FBI’s case is “further undermined” by the admission that Turner had been assisting Wilburn without seeking any cash donation in return.

“The affidavit cites an encounter between Councilor Turner and Wilburn in which Wilburn says he is so grateful that he will do ‘anything’ for Councilor Turner,” the party stated in its release. “Turner then suggests that the informant talk to his campaign manager about participating in a totally legal fundraiser.

“In the second meeting, the FBI informant fails to get Turner to cooperate in receiving a second cash payment,” the release continues. “Putting aside speculative FBI innuendo, the affidavit actually undermines the FBI assertion that Turner was engaged in any effort to secure illegal cash.”

Eli Beckerman, the incoming co-chair of the Green-Rainbow Party, pointed out a potential political element to the FBI’s probe.

“Chuck Turner is a public servant with a 42-year record of honesty and extraordinary service that is seldom seen in Massachusetts politics,” Beckerman said. “He has repeatedly stood up for his community and turned down chances to curry favor from the wealthy interests that typically fund political careers. And he is one of the few political figures that have been openly critical of FBI infringement upon civil liberties.”

Beckerman further argued that leaks to media outlets also raised questions.

“The selective leakage of supposedly incriminating information, in the media-friendly form of a video tape, even prior to seeking an indictment, appears to be a deliberate attempt by the FBI to destroy Turner’s political career,” Beckerman said. “This in itself raises questions [about] whether the FBI was motivated by legitimate law enforcement considerations.”

Turner’s impressive showing of support has already frozen one opponent — Boston City Council President Maureen Feeney.

Within hours of Turner’s arrest, Feeney rushed to remove Turner from all of his committee assignments, including his chairmanship of the committees on education and human rights.

“I am deeply saddened by the news this morning,” Feeney said in a statement released the day of Turner’s arrest. “These charges are disturbing and shake an already fragile public trust in elected officials … If these charges prove true, I will not let the actions of one member cast a dark cloud over this entire body.”