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A Three Ring Circus

Reflections from Behind the Wall

Anatomy of a FrameUp! - Installment 6

Chuck TurnerAt last, I thought as Terri and I walked into Boston's Moakley Federal Court House. A year and eleven months had passed since I had been arrested at City Hall. It seemed like a lifetime. The hounding by the press; the constant assassinations of my character; the rallies to defend my innocence; the struggle with Feeney for fair treatment; the endless struggles with US Attorney Sullivan and his sidekick John McNeil as they tried to hide the Big Lie; and the painstaking process engaged in by my legal team, Barry Wilson, Kazi Toure, and John Pavlos, to sort through the discovery: boxes and boxes and boxes of materials and cds mainly relating to the case against my codefendant, the Senator (later separated).  During the last two years I had in reality three full time jobs: trying to defend my sanity; trying to stay out of jail; and most important trying to represent and serve the constituents who had reelected me despite the charges.  
As we rode the elevator up to the Court Room 14, I felt a wave of relief. Win or lose, this drama would soon be over. Hopefully, I would be able to resume life as a human being and end my life as a character in a political drama. Leaving Terri in the front row of the audience, I walked to my legal team's table, feeling confident that we had done everything we could do to win. If all goes well, this nightmare should be over in a relative twinkling of the eye--a couple of weeks. After saying hello to Barry, Kazi, and John I eased into my seat and prepared to hear Judge Woodlock lay out the rules that the jurors were to follow.
Judge Woodlock: 
In our everyday life we chat with people and we develop preliminary opinions and read the media and go on with our lives. Not here. Here you are going to have to follow some very important rules. The first, the most fundamental, is that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until the Government proves beyond a reasonable doubt each essential element of the charge against him. That presumption of innocence remains with him throughout. 
Second, the burden rests with the Government. I anticipate that in this case, like other cases, the defendant will offer some evidence, there will be cross-examination by the defendant's lawyers, but ultimately the burden must be satisfied by the Government. 
The third is that this burden is a very heavy burden. It is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Not beyond all doubt but beyond a reasonable doubt, and I will instruct you about that at the end. 
It was amazing. His rules seemed to frame the arguments that I had been making throughout the last two years. The jury had to assume that I was innocent and eliminate all the reasonable doubt in their minds before they could find me guilty. How could McNeil eliminate all reasonable doubt? He didn't have a magic wand. How could I be convicted of extortion? I hadn't even asked Wilburn for a contribution in return for my help. In fact, I hadn't done anything except file a hearing order to examine why the Senator's district and mine hadn't received any of the 55 new liquor licenses issued in the City--not one. 
Sullivan and McNeil had accused me of being in a conspiracy with the Senator. Yet, the Senator hadn't even asked me to call for a hearing. In fact, she hadn't even contacted me directly. She had sent an email to the Council asking for help but I filed the hearing order on my own. We hadn't even talked about it. There was even evidence that Wilburn had asked the Senator to involve me in his entrapment web and she had refused. That's why she reached out to the Council rather than to me as the District Councilor.  
Yes, I had agreed to support canceling the hearing after City Council President Feeney, the State Senate President Murray, Senate Licensing Committee Chair Montigney, Boston Liquor Licensing Commission Chair Potaski, and the Senator had worked out a deal to get an all purpose license for Wilburn and four additional licenses for the district. However, my agreement to have the hearing canceled came two weeks after Wilburn came to my office and gave me a contribution saying he appreciated my help and he wanted to give me something that I could use to "Take your wife out to dinner."  In addition how would any reasonable person not doubt my guilt after hearing Barry expose the holes in their arguments.
However, when Judge Woodlock continued with his discussion of what the government had to prove, I began to realize what Barry had meant when he said that Hobbs Act Extortion is a very tricky piece of legislation. Let me let you hear for yourself. 
Judge Woodlock:   
Let me explain a little bit about the case, what it is that the Government has set out to prove. 
They have got four charges that are set forth in counts of what is called an "indictment," and because the defendant comes here presumed innocent, you will understand the indictment does not mean anything except to lay out the charges that the Government makes against Mr. Turner
I will read the language of the indictment. You will understand that it is formal, like all aspects of this case, but in Count One it is charged that on or about August 3,2007 in the state of Massachusetts, Charles "ChuckTurner, the defendant herein, did knowingly attempt to commit extortion under the color of official right and did thereby affect commerce and the movement of articles in interstate commerce, in that Charles "Chuck Turner" obtained a cash payment in the amount of $1000 from a witness, knowing that the payment was tendered in exchange for one or more official acts as a Boston City Councilor in connection with the obtaining of a liquor license for a proposed restaurant/lounge in the City of Boston, which payment was not legally due Charles "ChuckTurner or to his office as a member of the Boston City Council and the consent of the witness having been induced or obtained under color of official right. 
I had heard the indictment before but sitting in front of the judge with the prosecutor and the jury to my right, it seemed that I was understanding it for the first time. All they had to prove was that I had received some money from Wilburn and that I knew that he was giving it to me for my helping to get a liquor license.  Since McNeil had dropped the easily refutable conspiracy charge, it looked like they had me in a box. It felt like a coffin.  
The thoughts were coming a mile a minute as I tried to understand what the indictment was saying regarding my guilt or innocence. While I had no memory of Wilburn or the exchange of money, there were pictures that he had taken showing me receiving something that looked like money although our hands covered whatever it was. Even though I didn't remember him, the reality was that I filed a hearing order on the general issue of liquor licenses that didn't mention him but mentioned his proposed club, the Deja Vu. I couldn't believe that it could be that easy to convict me. They had to need more than a contribution from Wilburn and the filing of a hearing order to convict me. What about the extortion? I didn't even ask for money. Let me listen to the Judge, it can't be this easy for them to frame me. 
Judge Woodlock: 
The government has to prove essentially four things: 
First, that on or about August 3, 2007 Mr. Turner knowingly obtained cash or attempted to obtain cash from a person; second that Mr. Turner obtained that cash or attempted to do so under color of official right, meaning his office; third, that there was a realistic probability, however, slight, that interstate commerce or the movement of an article or commodity in interstate commerce from one state to another could have been affected in some way if the facts had been as Mr. Turner understood them to be; and, fourth, and this may be important for you to understand in its nuanced form, when we talk about extortion in this context, it is not what the everyday view of extortion is, but the Government has to prove that Mr. Turner engaged in a purposeful act under circumstances as he believed them to be that amounted to a substantial step toward the commission of a crime of Extortion Under Color of Official Right and that his criminal intent was strongly corroborated. Extortion Under Color of Official Right means that a public official obtained or attempted to obtain a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was offered to him in return for taking or withholding or influencing official acts. 
The first three seemed like slam dunks for Asst. US Attorney McNeil to prove. They even have someone from Anheuser Bush ready to testify about their beer having to cross state lines to be served in the Deja Vu, if Wilburn had been able to open the club and get a liquor license. Without this piece of evidence I couldn't have been prosecuted by the feds. The fourth element of proof sounded like one that would give Barry some room to perform his legal magic. I will admit that I didn't understand Judge Woodlock's language as he explained the nuances of the fourth point they will have to prove. However, my thought was that Barry will have a field day as McNeil and Dowden, his assistant, try to prove that my "criminal intent was strongly corroborated." But what about the extortion, I didn't extort money from Wilburn. Then Judge Woodlock answered my question. 
Judge Woodlock:
One way of understanding what the Government has to prove is also to outline what the Government does not have to prove. The Government does not have to prove that Mr. Turner made any specific threat or used force or fear to cause the person to tender the money that the indictment says he obtained. The Government does not have to prove that the defendant made any request or demand for money or engaged in any other affirmative inducement to obtain the money. Passive acceptance of a benefit by a public official is sufficient, if the public official knows that it is being offered--he is being offered the payment in exchange for the exercise of official power. 
The Government is not required to prove that the defendant made a specific promise to perform a particular act, particular official act, at the time of the payment or that the official action or inaction actually occurred. 
As Judge Woodlock explained what the government didn't have to prove, I could hear the cell door slamming behind me. Finally, I understood what was happening. Hobbs Act Extortion must have been written either by J. Edgar Hoover or at his request. It was another of the weapons that Hoover had developed for his campaigns of psychological warfare. "The passive acceptance of a benefit" was called extortion so the public would think that the official used coercion or force to obtain money. 
Given the commonly understood meaning of the word extortion, who would ever think that a politician accused of Hobbs Act Extortion was actually the target of a government entrapment plot. Once the US Attorney called h/er first press conference, the court of public opinion would have been put on the road to a guilty verdict.   
The official did not even have to promise any action when receiving the money. In fact the official didn't have to take any action. As long as the jury is bamboozled into thinking that the the official was thinking about either doing something official or thinking about not doing something official, the frameup is in place. McNeil had the pictures that their paid pawn had taken. I had filed a hearing order regarding liquor licenses. The trap was set for a Hobbs Act Extortion Conviction. What about the three other counts?
Judge Woodlock:
Now there are three more counts, and the three more counts are essentially making false statements, and I will identify them one by one. But what you should understand here is that the Government has to prove that Mr. Turner knowingly made a material false statement, material meaning something that is going to influence decision-making or could on or about a particular date; that Mr. Turner made that statement voluntarily and intentionally; and, third that in this context the statements were made to agents--made concerning a matter within the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation...
So the three counts. The first count says that Mr. Turner on or about October 18th interviewed by the FBI at his office in Boston City Hall as part of an investigation into payments, and that on that occasion Mr. Turner made what the Government says is a false, fraudulent or fictitious material statement saying that he never received any money from the witness. 
........made a false, fraudulent or fictitious material statement by stating that the witness never offered to hold a fund raiser for him. 
........made a false, fraudulent, fictitious statement by stating that the person, witness, had never offered him any money or other assistance. 
It looks like another slam dunk for McNeil. As I said in installment 3, when the feds come calling, call your lawyer. When the FBI agents came calling on October 18, 2008, the morning of the Senator's arrest, I made a tragic error and talked to them without a lawyer. I told them the truth as I remembered it. Unfortunately, they had the tapes and pictures to show that my memory was not very accurate. The jury would have to find me guilty given the evidence unless they could be convinced that I didn't remember. 
I had walked into court feeling strong and confident, realizing that there were some hurtles like the last three counts. However, I couldn't see how they could frame me for the extortion charge. Once Judge Woodlock explained his perspective on the law, I realized that the fight in Court Room 14 would be the toughest of the last two years and probably the toughest of my life. Fortunately, I had a legal team of street fighters so I was confident that they would find and use every opportunity to beat the frameup. McNeil and company despite Hobbs Act Extortion were in for the fight of their life. 
For the next three days my legal team and  Asst US Attorney McNeil and his assistant, with the guidance of Judge Woodlock sorted through over 100 jurors to narrow the panel down to 16: 12 jurors and 4 alternates. By the time the sixteen were selected, there were three people of color: an Asian-American woman, a Haitian-American woman, and an African-American man. There had been a young African-American man who I thought would have been open to my team's arguments but he was quickly excluded from the pool. As I looked at the jury while they were being seated to begin the actual trial, I realized that whether they were a jury of my peers or not, they were the men and women who were going to decide my fate. I must admit that it was a strange feeling. 
Much to my surprise, McNeil and company stumbled coming out of the starting gate. While it was impossible to gauge the jury's reaction, it became clear that the media and public were shocked to learn that Wilburn, the person Sullivan and McNeil had projected as an innocent community business man trying to get a liquor license, was the prosecution's pawn being paid by Sullivan to execute an entrapment scheme. It was difficult to know what the jury thought since based on Woodlock's questioning they had not heard the original hype around my arrest and my alleged conspiracy with the Senator. However, the media and public were shocked and dismayed that they had been misled. 
When Wilburn, their only witness on the extortion charge, took the stand, the difficulties for the prosecution continued. Wilburn was combative and hostile toward the prosecution. He interjected that he felt that the US Attorney's office has exposed him to the media a few weeks after my arrest and had previously taken him off the payroll, leaving him without income. 
Initially he weakened the financial aspect of the charge by saying that he couldn't say how much money he had given me since his FBI handler had not counted the money out in front of him as he had in all previous situations where Wilburn was given money to give to the Senator. However, the next day on the stand, with coaching I assume, he said it felt like a big enough wad of bills to be a $1000.
Barry's cross-examination was masterful. By the time Wilburn left the stand, he no longer seemed credible as a witness trying to see that justice was carried out. Barry focused on Wilburn's joblessness and was able to characterize him as someone who was involved because of his need and desire for an income. When Wilburn talked to the press after his testimony, he revealed that he recognized the weakness of his testimony when he said that even if I was not convicted of extortion, I would be convicted of the three counts of lying to FBI agents. 
The FBI agents' testimony regarding my "lies" was uneventful. They recounted going to my office; my agreeing to talk with them; their asking the three questions and my answers. They said I became angry as I talked about the historical role of the FBI and Hoover and their attempt to subvert movements for justice. Obviously, the agents were trying to make it seem as if I had been trying to take their focus off my "criminal" actions rather than acknowledging my righteous indignation at the role of the FBI throughout history.  
The remainder of the prosecution's presentation flowed quickly. They presented the Assistant Clerk of the City Council to discuss the dropping of the hearing order regarding liquor licenses. Barry used his presence to verify that Terri and I by the time of our arrest had lent $120,000 to the campaign in order to pay the expenses of running a district office and monthly luncheon discussions we called Roundtables. He also pointed out that by the beginning of the trial the debt owed to us had grown to $170,000. 
By the end of their presentation, the prosecution had laid out the four elements of their case: First, that I had received money from Wilburn. Second, that I had engaged in the official acts of filing a hearing order and agreed after initially disagreeing to support the dropping of the hearing order. Third, that I had lied to the FBI regarding three questions asked about my involvement with Wilburn. Fourth, that if Wilburn had been able to open a club with a liquor license and Budweiser had been sold in the club that beer would have had to come across state lines given the fact that there was no Anheuser Bush distillery in Massachusetts. 
The reality, however, was that their case was so weak in the minds of the media and the public that the more conservative of the Boston dailies, the Boston Herald, sent a photographer and a reporter to my house after the last day of the prosecutions' presentation to interview me. At first, I refused to speak to them given my previous experiences, but the reporter seemed to be sincere when he said that the story was going to focus on how unusual it was to have the prosecution in a federal case present such a weak case. The next day's Herald almost predicted my victory with a picture of me covering the front page of the tabloid. 
Then came the opportunity to present our defense. Our plan was to put Steve Miller, the head of the law firm which represents over 70% of the successful liquor license applicants in Boston to explain how he obtained a beer and wine license for Wilburn without Wilburn even going to the hearing. Also, we wanted to ask him to explain what happened to the $1000 he asked Wilburn to provide after he had initially told Wilburn that he would help him obtain a license from Potaski free of charge. However, he was able to dodge the subpoena server. 
An additional key element in our defense was to be the questioning of Chairman Potaski of the Licensing Commission to find out how Wilburn had obtained a beer and wine license without even going to the hearing. We also wanted him to explain how he was able to grant this license when Wilburn didn't even have a location for the club. While we were able to serve him the subpoena, he didn't show up on the day he was to testify.  
The third element was to be witnesses who could explain the type of work I had been doing over the years to paint a picture of myself and my work to counter the picture McNeil had attempted to paint.   The fourth element of our defense, my taking the stand to testify, had been debated for months. Barry, my lead attorney, thought it would be madness for me to take the stand. In general, he viewed defendants taking the stand as a dangerous strategy. That gave the the prosecutor an opportunity to ask what ever questions he chose, creating dangers that could not be planned for in advance.
 In my case, he felt that not only was it dangerous, it was absurd given the fact that what I had to say would have so little credibility. I agreed that to say to the jury that I had no memory of even meeting with Wilburn on any of the alleged occasions that he had documented would be hard for them to believe. However, if I didn't testify and was found not guilty of the governments' four charges, I would still be guilty of the moral crime of hypocrisy. 
Throughout my life, I've said to people that we have to be willing to speak truth to power despite the dangers. I have pointed to our ancestors' fight for freedom and the dangers they had to face. I've questioned how we could betray their faith in us that had inspired them to suffer unimaginable degradation? Given what they had faced in order to build a platform for us to build on, isn't it our responsibility to stand up for the principles we believe in? Isn't that what they would expect of us?- What legacy would we leave to future generations if we don't lead principled lives of courage. 
When I had run for the City Council at age 59, I said that I was running to test the use of the office as an organizing tool and to try to set a standard for principle based politics rather than the politics of expediency which from my perspective was destroying the possibility of building a just society. How after a lifetime of asking others to have faith that the principled life is its own reward, could I refuse to take the stand because of legal expediency. How could I face my constituents if I did that. How could I look at myself in the mirror and not see the word HYPOCRITE written across my face. 
I argued with my lawyers that elected officials had a responsibility to take the stand whenever accused of betraying their public trust. When they replied that they didn't agree and that the law gave the defendant the right to choose what was the best course to win the case, I said that there has to be a higher standard for elected officials. How could we restore the people's faith in the integrity of elected officials if elected officials hide behind legal smoke screens to avoid questions that we should face and answer, regardless of the consequences?
Ultimately, they agreed. I was the client and they had a responsibility to abide by my choices. So, they agreed to have me take the stand. However, It was hard to look in their eyes because I could see the words that they were too respectful to say. "How could you do this not only to yourself but also to us, your lawyers. We have worked long and hard under your terms to prevent Sullivan from getting away with his plot to frame you and now you are preparing to throw it away by not following our advice".
In attempting to live a principled life, I have often had to face situations where I had to choose to stand alone. This one was the toughest. No one supported my taking the stand. Terri had steadfastly supported me in this ordeal even when she had reservations. When I told her that I had to testify, she said that I was making a horrible mistake that she felt would lead to my conviction. She then said she knew that if I had made up my mind, she wasn't gong to be able to change it. So her position was that she would say no more and she didn't. However, every once in a while I could see that "Why is he doing this?" look come onto her face.
Even the reporters covering the trial, some of whom had become more sympathetic, looked amazed  when I said yes to their question of whether I was going to testify. After I explained why, I could almost hear them saying to themselves, "I used to think he was crazy, now I have no doubt". Sarah Ann Shaw, Boston's first black TV news reporter, an activist, and a friend of almost 60 years, standing on the edge of the reporter's ring said, "Chuck you can't do that". My response was "I have no choice". Isaura Mendes, a community peace activist and friend, who had lost two sons to street violence, pleaded as we walked to the courtroom that I not testify. All I could do was look at her and say, "Have faith, it will all work out."
As I walked to the stand, I thought if I am found not guilty, people will say I got a lucky break. If I am found guilty I will be viewed by my community as well as others as foolish at best and crazy at worst. As I walked up the small set of stairs to sit in the witness chair, I said, "You and me God. You appreciate why I have to testify." As John prepared to lead me through my direct examination. I looked at the jury and wondered what they would think when they heard my story. Then John drew my attention back to him and led me smoothly through my background, work as a Councilor, my response to the Senator's email, and the subsequent events. 
Then McNeil approached me with his Cheshire like grin. I remember him putting on the viewing screen the picture Wilburn took of his hand covering mine with something between sticking out. I remember McNeil continuously asking what was it that Wilburn had put in my hand and my continuously saying that I couldn't say because I didn't remember but that the picture indicated that he was giving me something that looked like it could be money. Later he said, "If you don't remember the meeting, how can you say that it was not a thousand dollars"." I calmly replied, "Nobody has ever handed me a thousand dollars. If he had given me a thousand dollars, I'm sure I would remember". 
The most vivid exchange was his pounding away at the fact that when Wilburn put his hand over mine, I didn't look down to see what he was giving me, as if to say that I didn't look down because I knew that there was $1000 there. Again, all I could say was the truth which was, "I didn't look down because it's rude and impolite to look at the amount of a contribution that someone is giving you". Then I used a term that a group of ministers had used when I described the situation to them. They recounted that parishioners often give them church contributions in a similar fashion. They call it a preacher's handshake. The next day the newspapers led with stories not only about my testimony that I didn't remember but also about my preacher's handshake. 
Frankly, I don't remember the other questions that he asked. When I left the stand, I looked at the jury but I couldn't figure out their reaction. I was sure, however, that for better or worse, it was my testimony that was going to seal my fate. My legal team felt the same way and decided to end our defense with my testimony. They felt that to put on other witnesses would be anticlimactic. Barry and McNeil then made their closing arguments, Judge Woodlock gave his instructions, and the jury retired to decide my fate.   
Time dragged as I waited for the jury to make up its mind. A couple of days later, the clerk summoned those of us who were waiting for the verdict back to the courtroom to hear the jury's decision. As I waited for the forewoman of the jury to read the verdict, I felt unusually peaceful. Guilty or innocent, we had done our best. As I listened to the word guilty given after each of the four counts, I still felt peaceful and said to myself, "At least its over."
As I left the courtroom, surrounded by those who had been with me every day of the trial, I felt that I had to say something that would help them put this emotionally trying moment in the context of our mission. So when we arrived on the first floor, I asked people to gather around me before I went out to talk to the press. I began by thanking them for the support and energy they had given me throughout the ordeal and particularly these last two weeks when they and others had filled not only the courthouse's largest courtroom but also an additional courtroom. I let them know that Terri and I owed them a debt of gratitude that we could never repay but would always carry in our hearts. 
I reminded them that many have fallen in the past  in the struggle for justice and that more will fall in the future. However, through it all, we must never forget that there is no sacrifice too great in our fight to create a just world for future generations. As we watch the old world die, it will try to destroy all around it. We must be like the phoenix rising out of the ashes of the past, focusing on the future that we are here to create; not letting the storm and strife deter us from fulfilling the mission for which we were born. 
Outside, facing the cameras and the reporters, I vented my anger at the injustice of what had just occurred. At the same time I reminded them that while Sullivan had succeeded in temporarily taking out one soldier, the war for justice would continue. I then went home to talk with Terri about how we would move our lives forward now that I was a convicted felon. A half an hour later, I walked into the house, hugged Terri, and said that I had been found guilty on all four counts. She said, "I know but at least it over".   

B) Analysis: 

1) Why is the installment entitled Three Ring Circus:
Naming this installment was the most difficult of the eight.  I've tried to choose titles that would give the reader a feeling for what was to be discussed in each installment. There were so many different activities that went on during the trial, I couldn't think of the phrase that would capture for the reader the essence of the experience. Then in a moment of relaxation, memories of my childhood love of circuses popped onto my mental viewing screen. I could see the trainers working with the different sets of trained animals--lions, tigers, horses, elephants, etc. Then came the pictures of the clowns getting into and out of tiny cars and doing anything to get a laugh while providing a transition from the animal acts to the high wire acts and the death defying aerial artists on the trapezes. 
Suddenly, my question was answered.  The trial was like a three ring circus. In the first ring was McNeil leading Wilburn, the FBI agents, and the other government witnesses through their paces, getting them to jump through his hoops. Wilburn was similar to an unruly lion, snapping and growling, not content to jump through the hoop at the snap of McNeil's whip like tongue, but then remembering that if he didn't he would not get fed. 
The manager from the beer company represented the transition role of the clowns. He wasn't particularly funny, but he was essential to the drama. If he wasn't there, we wouldn't need a defense. Without him, there was no basis for a federal trial. He was the lynch pin that allowed Sullivan and McNeil to take a state issue and make it into a  federal crime by identifying the interstate connection, slight though it was. 
In the third ring, my choosing to take the stand was like an aging trapeze artist deciding to do a triple somersault without a net to demonstrate the time honored principles of the craft rather than settle for the crowd pleasing stunts that mocked the art of flying. 
2) A just law for a serious crime. 
To me the betrayal of the public trust by an elected official is an heinous act, flagrantly criminal as Webster defines it. Its an act that erodes the essence of democracy, the trust of the people in the integrity of those whom they elect to represent them. Given that reality, a healthy society has to have processes and laws that enable it to identify those who would betray their trust and to prosecute them for their crimes. 
At the same time, those processes and laws must be carefully crafted so that they can not be misused to target honest officials. Hobbs Act Extortion does not meet that litmus test. As defined by Judge Woodlock in my trial, Hobbs Act Extortion makes it difficult to distinguish an elected official who is betraying his trust from the elected official who is carrying out his responsibilities and soliciting contributions to cover the expenses of running for and maintaining office. 
Recently, I read an article in the Boston Globe which said that the director of the consortium of Massachusetts medical technology firms was going to Washington to meet with Senator Kerry. The evening before the meeting, he was scheduled to attend a Kerry fundraiser at which he would undoubtedly make a contribution, perhaps even hand it to the Senator, saying that he appreciated the Senator's work. 
The purpose of the next day's meeting was to lobby the Senator to oppose a provision in the new health care law that the medical technology firms felt would limit the profits needed for their research. At the moment, the Senator is on record as opposing any changes. If Senator Kerry based on the conversation decides to change his position, can he be tried under Hobbs Act Extortion. A contribution of money was offered by a person who hoped that the Senator would engage in a certain official act. If the Senator then engages in that act, it seems he could be subject to investigation and possible prosecution. 
The name of the act itself is a problem in that it undercuts the whole concept of innocent until proven guilty. Once the public hears that the crime is extortion, there is a mind set put into action that create a psychological toxicity around the official even if proven not guilty a year or two later. Remember, I didn't go to trial until 23 months after my arrest. 
We are only six years away from the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales based on the fact that he and President Bush's chief political operative, Karl Rove, conspired to fire eight US Attorneys who were not willing to use their prosecutorial power against those that the Bush administration viewed as enemies. 
There is a long history of US prosecutors using their powers to attempt to remove black elected officials and officials of color from office. Havey Silverglade, a prominent Boston defense lawyer, recently wrote a book, Three Felonies a Day, that describes a number of cases which he believes are part of a national pattern of misconduct by US Attorneys. Given the historical and present reality of prosecutorial misconduct, Hobbs Act Extortion is a dangerous law, I believe, in its present form.  
3) What is a federal crime?
My case is a good example that a federal crime is any crime where the prosecutor can establish that the crime had some connection to a state other than the state in which the crime took place. In my case, alcohol would have crossed state lines to be served in Wilburn's club so that fact alone makes it a federal crime. 
The reality is that the US Attorney has an almost unlimited ability to take any case to a federal level or launch an entrapment scheme in almost any situation by just establishing some type of connection to another state. In installment 3, the Big Lie, I included comments from defense lawyers and federal judges, including Chief Justice Wolf criticizing former US Attorney Sullivan for taking drug cases from state court and trying them in federal court. 
The Chief Justice Wolf cited Sullivan's practice as a misuse of federal resources that should be used on priorities such as white collar crimes and public corruption. Massachusetts federal judge Nancy Gertner, discussing Sullivan's practice, cited her view of the inappropriateness of trying drug cases in federal court given the "bludgeon" like sentences meted out at the federal level. 
The powerlessness of the federal judges, even the Chief Justice, over the way the US Attorneys use their prosecutorial resources was demonstrated when it was reported that Chief Justice Wolf at the 2010 swearing in of the new Massachusetts US Attorney, Carmen Ortiz, said that he hoped she would not engage in Sullivan's practice of taking drug cases out of state court and trying them in federal court. 
4) Taking the stand in your own defense. 
My status as a relative novice in the legal world is demonstrated by the fact that until my trial I didn't realize that defense lawyers try to avoid having their clients take the stand to testify. The primary concern seems to be that it allows the prosecutor to have the opportunity to open up whatever line of questions they may choose. Since the defense has carefully thought through what issues to discuss and which to avoid, having the accused testify creates too much opportunity for unscripted testimony.
Even judges have concerns about defendants testifying. When Judge Woodlock learned that I planned to testify, he asked for a sidebar conversation with me, my lawyers, and the prosecutors. In the sidebar, he explained that I was not required to testify. In fact, he said he had seen defendants choose to testify and then regret the decision that they had made. However, he didn't tell me that if he as well as the jury did not believe my testimony, he would find me guilty of perjury and add more time to my sentence. 
However, even if he had told me, I still would have testified. As I said in the narrative, from an ethical/moral standpoint I didn't have a choice. As a candidate for elective office, I had told the voters that my goals as an elected official would be to demonstrate the value of organizing as a tool for effective representation and to establish a pattern of principle based politics. How could I now say to my constituents that I hadn't testified because it was legally expedient. In other words, there was less risk of being convicted by not testifying than there would be if I testified. Even if they accepted the rationalization, I couldn't. 
During my years of fighting for justice and against oppression, I developed the belief that those of us who fight for justice must embody the principles and values of the society we are trying to create. That is, we need to become living examples of the type of society we wish to build. To attempt to live by your principles in an unprincipled world can seem foolish at best, perhaps crazy at worst. However, I have found that following the dictates of my heart has given me clarity of thought, peace of mind, and a strength of will that compensates for whatever "sacrifices" needed to be made. 
It was difficult taking a path in the trial that those around me did not understand. However, it was a path I knew in my heart I had to follow. I didn't know whether it would lead to a not guilty verdict or a guilty verdict. However, I did know that whatever the outcome, I would be at peace because I had followed the dictates of my heart; because I had stayed true to my principles, whatever the material cost. While I certainly would like to be back in Boston with Terri, my children, friends, and community, I am at peace as I prepare to return to the struggle. 

C) Action Steps:

1) Hobbs Act Extortion: 

I believe that we need to have research units in each state to gather the history of the use of Hobbs Act Extortion. This research then needs to be collected and assess to determine the the extent to which the Act has been used nationally as a political tool by prosecutors. If my suspicions are correct, a campaign to repeal the Hobbs Act Extortion and formulate, if necessary, a new federal law for public officials who violate their trust. 
2) What is a federal crime?
Again, we need research units in each state to assess the extent to which prosecutions focus on the areas of white collar crimes and public corruption. In those areas, we need to assess the extent to which the cases seem to have a political motivation and the extent to which the federal connection seems substantive as opposed to expedient. In the other categories of crimes identified, there need to be similar assessments. The data then needs to be correlated on a national basis to determine if there is a need for a campaign regarding the misapplication of federal prosecutorial power.

Next Installment: Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury 

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