Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MA Corruption Trial Set To Start In Federal Court – Witness Testimony Already An Issue

The federal white collar trial for City Councilor Chuck Turner is set to begin today. Already, the human drama and strategic dances have begun and nary a juror has been selected (or rejected) yet.

And, actually, that’s the way it should be.

The trend is for courts to try to avoid any last minute surprises during the trial. The issue presenting itself here is regarding one of the main witnesses against Mr. Turner.

As you may recall, charges were brought against Turner and, in a related matter, Diane Wilkerson for corruption. For his part, Turner is accused with accepting a bribe. In fact, the United States Attorney claims that there is video showing Turner accepting the bribe from Ron Wilburn, a businessman (hereinafter, the “Witness”) trying to get a liquor license. During the investigation, the F.B.I. claims that Turner lied to them about the events.

The Witness is now apparently claiming his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, trying to refuse to testify. This, of course, means that he has broken any agreement he might have had with the prosecution and may be looking at imprisonment himself.

No word from Ms. Wilkerson who has already pleaded guilty, but who’s sentencing is still pending.

After yesterday’s hearing, the Witness said that the court had put a gag order on him. However, he insists to the Boston Globe that he had no plans to testify and that he was angry about how he has been treated as a cooperating witness for the FBI as well as upset that authorities only arrested two individuals — Turner and former state senator Dianne Wilkerson — in the 18-month investigation.

Wilburn claims that he had agreed to become an informant if authorities would investigate corruption within the Boston Licensing Board.

Meanwhile, the question of “who says what” was played out in front of the courthouse between Turner and his attorney. Turner twice promised he was going to testify at the trial, while his lawyer shrugged saying “Well, Mr. Turner says a lot of things…”

Clearly, the attorney is trying to keep as many options open…despite his client’s running around doing his best to eliminate as many as possible.

I symnpathize. Lord only knows how many times I have been in that position.

The trial is set to start today with jury selection. Opening statements are planned for Thursday and the Witness indicates that the mystery surrounding whether he will testify will be solved on Friday.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

The issues of who will and has said what are, of course, commonplace in the criminal justice system, both federal and state.

Testimony, naturally, is what it is all about. Well, that and credibility.

“I thought you began by saying the courts like to avoid surprises to parties. Isn’t the Witness presenting a big surprise to both parties here?”

Well, that seems unclear. If, indeed, the Witness has been releasing statements that he did not intend to testify, then it should not have been such a big surprise…especially to the prosecution who was planning on calling him to the stand.

Of course, the government has a way to compel the Witness’ testimony. If they grant him immunity from prosecution for anything he reveals while on the stand, then he no longer has a Fifth Amendment problem. However, that also gives the defense something more to use against him when cross-examining him.

Meanwhile, the disagreement between counsel and client about whether Turner will testify is pretty meaningless. The attorney is surely not foreclosing the possibility of his client exercising his right to testify on his own behalf. He does, though, want to keep the options open. Should the defendant end up not testifying, the prosecutor cannot argue to the jurors that he had made various statements to the press that he was going to testify because jurors are told to ignore any press accounts. Also, there is that prohibition against commenting on the the defendant’s exercising his Constitutional rights…

This is not an outside prior inconsistent statement that would come back to haunt the defendant

On the other hand, one might wonder at the attorney’s casting doubt on his client’s credibility by announcing that he says “alot of things”…!

Speaking of talking alot, you might be interested in listening to WBZ (radio 1030 am), linkable here, where I am told they will be playing parts of an interview I had with Deb Lawlor on this subject earlier this morning.

It is usually a good idea to have a united front with your attorney when going off to trial. This is one reason why choosing your lawyer is a big decision. You want someone experienced and knowledgeable, but you also want someone in whom you have faith and can work with.
Should you be caught up in the web of a police investigation or accusation and you wish to discuss it with me, please feel free to call me to arrange a free initial consultation at 617-492-3000.

To view the original story in which parts of this blog were based, please go to : http://wbz.cbslocal.com/2010/10/11/corruption-trial-set-for-chuck-turner/ and http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/12002456941164/city-councilor-chuck-turner-appears-in-court/

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