Sentenced to three and a half years, twice-convicted Wilkerson slams prosecutors

Former Sen. Wilkerson's statement after her sentencing. Video by Gal Tziperman Lotan.

It was strike two for former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson. More than a decade after the Roxbury Democrat was convicted of federal tax evasion charges, Wilkerson was sentenced on Thursday to three and a half years of prison for attempting to accept $23,500 in bribes in exchange for legislative action.

Wilkerson, who resigned from the state Senate in 2008, pleaded guilty in June to the corruption charges. The surveillance images of the senator stuffing cash into her bra, released immediately after her indictment, rocked the State House and City Hall.

After the judge handed down the sentence, Wilkerson’s attorney Max Stern requested that she be held at F.C.I. Danbury in Connecticut, a federal prison for female inmates. Wilkerson, who will not be barred from seeking political office, has been told to report to prison by March, and her lawyers say they are planning their next steps.

The judge, Douglas Woodlock, cited her "established pattern" of breaking laws and "systematic way" she took the bribes. In order to do business in the Second Suffolk Senate District, individuals had to pay a "Wilkerson tax," Woodlock said.

Woodlock said the sentence was aimed in part at deterring other public officials from undertaking similar illegal acts.

Inside the courtroom, Wilkerson was contrite, and before the sentencing, she told the judge she had always sought to help her community and was not interested in money.

But outside the Moakley Courthouse and after the sentence was handed down, she dropped contriteness and, in a prepared, single-spaced statement, lashed out at the U.S Attorney's office, calling them "outrageous" and "despicable." In a clipped tone, she sought to defend herself and former City Councillor Chuck Turner, who was convicted of accepting a $1,000 bribe in a related case. She accused the FBI's informant, Ron Wilburn, of being at the heart of a "criminal enterprise."

But U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, whose office had recommended four years of prison, noted that the evidence against Wilkerson was "overwhelming," and said the former senator did not learn her lesson from the first conviction and numerous campaign finance and ethics violations.

"Political corruption is a serious crime," said Ortiz. "It's sort of like a cancer. It may start out small but then it spreads. And you could see that in her, where she got involved in a pattern of systematic behavior, of obtaining money, cash for favors in exchange for that."