Citing â€œinflammatoryâ€ media coverage of her arrest on corruption charges, â€œoutrageousâ€ behavior of federal prosecutors, and a potential under-representation of minorities on a jury, the attorney for former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson on Monday called for either a dismissal of charges or a change of venue for her impending trial.
In a motion and 10-page accompanying memorandum filed in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, Wilkerson attorney Max Stern castigated then-U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivanâ€™s office and reporters and charged them with branding Wilkerson (D-Roxbury) as guilty before a grand jury had indicted her Nov. 18, 2008 on bribery charges in connection with the use of her office.Â Wilkerson was arrested three weeks before the indictment.
â€œUnder these circumstances, the indictment must be dismissed,â€ Stern wrote. â€œIn the alternative, because Ms. Wilkerson cannot possibly receive a fair trail in Massachusetts in the wake of such unprecedented prejudicial pretrial publicity, a change of venue must be granted.â€
Stern, an attorney with Stern, Shapiro, Weissberg & Garin LLP, also filed a separate motion to sever Wilkersonâ€™s case from Boston City Councilor Chuck Turnerâ€™s because â€œthey are not alleged to have participated in the same series of acts or transactions which constitute an offense or offenses.â€
Both Wilkerson and Turner, who has been charged with accepting a $1,000 bribe and making false statements to the FBI, have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Turner easily won re-election in yesterdayâ€™s general election.
Stern, who has won accolades for his criminal and civil trial work over a 35-year career, could not be reached for comment Monday evening. In an email, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorneyâ€™s office declined to comment â€œas it is an ongoing investigation.â€
The trial is scheduled to start in early spring 2010.
In arguing for moving the trial, Stern said statistics show that African-Americans are under-represented in jury panels in the Eastern District of Massachusetts. â€œGiven that a black defendant is already at a distinct disadvantage in this District when it comes to the make-up of her jury, heaping additional prejudicial factors on her nearly guarantees that she will not be able to get a fair trial,â€ he wrote.
Stern also slammed the FBI affidavit that the U.S. Attorneyâ€™s office immediately released after Wilkersonâ€™s Oct. 28, 2008 â€œdramatic and unnecessaryâ€ arrest, which came a week before voters in the Suffolk Second District headed to the polls for a face-off between Wilkerson and Sonia Chang-Diaz, who won the seat. Wilkerson had mounted a sticker campaign after losing to Chang-Diaz in the Democratic primary.
The affidavit also unnecessarily included Wilkersonâ€™s record of campaign finance violations, prior federal conviction for failing to file tax returns and a probation violation, he said.
Gintautas Dumcius, a contributing editor at the Reporter, wrote this article for State House News Service.