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Wilkerson arrested on federal corruption charges

ASSOCIATED PRESS | 10/29/2008, 4:14 a.m.
State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with accepting $23,500 in bribes from undercover...
State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with accepting $23,500 in bribes from undercover agents that she believed were local businessmen. Don West

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State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with accepting $23,500 in bribes from undercover agents that she believed were local businessmen.

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State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with accepting $23,500 in bribes from undercover agents that she believed were local businessmen.

The state’s lone black senator who lost the Democratic primary last month was arrested by the FBI on Tuesday and charged with accepting $23,500 in bribes from undercover agents she believed were local businessmen.

State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, 53, was charged with attempted extortion as a public official and theft of honest services as a state senator. She faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each count.

The Boston Democrat entered no plea during an initial appearance in federal court in Boston and was released on an unsecured $50,000 bond.

Wilkerson was ordered to have no contact with witnesses and retain any documents related to the case or to her personal finances. She made no comment leaving the court.

In asking for those conditions, Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil said Wilkerson has a “long history of acting as if she is above the law.”

Wilkerson lost the Democratic primary in September to Sonia Chang-Díaz despite support from Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick. She is running a write-in campaign for the Nov. 4 election, in hopes of retaining the seat she has held since 1993.

U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said it was coincidental the complaint was filed a week before the election.

According to a federal criminal complaint, Wilkerson was recorded by audio and videotape accepting bribes in exchange for helping a proposed nightclub in her district get a liquor license.

She also allegedly accepted payments for helping another undercover officer posing as a businessman who wanted to develop state property in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood.

Sullivan said Wilkerson accepted eight payments, ranging from $500 to $10,000, during the 17-month investigation.

An FBI affidavit filed in court includes a series of still photographs from video recordings allegedly showing Wilkerson accepting cash. In one photograph, taken in June 2007, Wilkerson appears to be stuffing a pile of cash under her sweater and inside her bra.

“Voters and taxpayers expect that elected officials will do what’s right for their constituents, not what is financially best for themselves,” Sullivan said.