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Fact, Interpretation, and Motive


Chuck Turner at Moakley Courthouse after his testimony.

In the tenth day of the Federal corruption trial of Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, the evidentary phase ended.  In principle, the facts are in. But this trial has shown just how fluid the boundary between fact and interpretation can be – especially in the hands of lawyers. The ambiguity is most pronounced when trying to “prove” motive.

There were lots of small points disputed.  Chuck did or didn’t call somebody, but emailed them instead.  As far as I could see there were only three undisputed facts of any importance.

  1. Chuck affirmed his Oath of Office of Boston City Councilor by signing the City’s Registry.
  2. Chuck wrote an order to schedule a hearing about liquor licenses in his district.
  3. Chuck  canceled the hearing.

1. The Oath: Assistant US Attorney John T. McNeil showed that page of the registry to several witness who took the stand and asked them to identify Chuck’s signature.  I don’t see that there was much question of fact on that point.  My interpretation is that attorney McNeil was engaged in a psychological gambit.  “This is a solemn oath. To violate it is a serious crime. You much convict!”  This emotional logic leaves out one very important step: “Do the facts show that he committed a crime?”

2. The Hearing: Chuck says that he scheduled the hearing to look at the whole question of liquor licenses in his district. McNeil claims that it was for one and only one license  for cooperating witness Ronald Wilburn. This is the single act that is supposed to have been the swag for Wilburn.  Chuck’s lawyer Barry Wilson established that the city government’s licensing board is not the final authority in granting liquor licenses.  Their decisions must be approved by the state ABCC.

3. Cancellation: A number of politicians asked Chuck to cancel the hearing. There was a home rule petition for more liquor licenses at the Statehouse at the time. McNeil claimed that the cancellation proves that the hearing was only about the one license for Wilburn. Chuck says it was about more licenses for the district which might well include Wilburn.

So while it’s highly questionable whether the tape shows  a bribe took place, it’s also highly questionable whether any action was taken that was favorable to Wilburn’s license that is significantly greater than a general interest in promoting commerce in the district.

Chuck Turner trial in critical phase.
Jury Deliberation Begins

1 Comment

  1. Local Contractors Agoura Hills

    September 2, 2014 @ 5:04 am


    Local Contractors Agoura Hills

    the guy by the door …

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