Reporter's Notebook: Turner claims unfair targeting – he’s got company

Sentenced to three years in prison, he remains impenitent and maintains that he is a victim of selective prosecution. “I can’t be remorseful for something I don’t think I did,” said the politician, who is appealing the sentence. Those words were spoken to the Washington Post by Tom DeLay of Texas, the former GOP majority leader in åthe U.S. House who had been charged with money laundering.

But they could have been easily said by former Boston City Councillor Chuck Turner, who was also sentenced to three years in prison. He was convicted for accepting a $1,000 bribe and lying to federal agents about it, crimes he exacerbated by perjuring himself on the witness stand during his October trial, prosecutors said.

So it goes. In quick succession, a number of politicians, here and elsewhere, at low and high levels of government, have run afoul of the law. And each has sought to construct a new reality out of the charges, as the rings of supporters shrink to an ardent group of conspiracy theorists and fringe activists.

Turner stayed uncharacteristically silent in court during his sentencing on Tuesday, demonstrating the same softer side that was evident when he testified before a jury in October, repeatedly and softly saying he could not remember what happened the day of the payoff.

Contrast that with the finger-jabbing-the-air certainty that he and his supporters frequently demonstrated outside the courtroom, flatly stating that he never took any money. (Maybe, some of his supporters conceded, and his own lawyers speculated, he took a few bills; a potential campaign finance violation, nothing more.)

To be sure, the case against Turner was a messy one. There are lingering questions, such as why anybody would go to Turner, of all people, for help with a liquor license, as the FBI informant did. Turner, as former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson told the same FBI’s informant, is much better at staging protests. “He would be good, if you needed somebody … to go pick up a ruckus and just protest for you, I would hire him,” Wilkerson, who received a sentence of three and a half years in prison in a related corruption case, said in a surreptitiously taped conversation. “You want to get something done. ... That’s not what he does.”

But Wilkerson was ultimately the one who pointed the FBI toward Turner, just as she had apparently introduced them to a WinnCompanies executive who would be charged with campaign finance violations and is awaiting sentencing.

“That is not selective prosecution,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. “That is pursuing the evidence.”

Hart and Lynch tapped for top Dem party posts

State Senate President Therese Murray, a Dorchester native who now represents Plymouth, last week picked state Sen. Jack Hart (D-South Boston) as majority whip.

Hart, who represents parts of Dorchester, succeeds Marian Walsh, a West Roxbury Democrat who chose not to run again last year. During the last legislative session, 2009-2010, Hart served as chair of the Committee on Bills in Third Reading and the Committee on Steering Policy.

He was widely considered as a contender for the chairmanship of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, a post that ultimately went to state Sen. Stephen Brewer, a Barre Democrat.

As majority whip, Hart, who has served in the Senate since 2002, acts as a go-between with the Senate president and other members.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, also a South Boston Democrat, has been tapped as the ranking Democrat on an oversight committee whose agencies include the U.S. Postal Service, which lost $8.5 billion last year.

Lynch’s office has announced that U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, appointed Lynch as the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy. The subcommittee is chaired by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Florida Republican.

“From restoring the financial stability of the Postal Service to overseeing national labor policy, this subcommittee has jurisdiction over some very urgent matters, and I am eager to tackle those issues in the 112th congress,” Lynch, a former ironworker and labor leader, said in a statement.

Quote of Note, Redux: Menino on libraries
“Rebuffed in 2010,” the Boston Globe headline read on Jan. 11, 2011, “Menino again seeks library closures.” Fourteen days later, in the tenth paragraph of a piece from Globe columnist Adrian Walker: “I have no intention of closing any libraries,” Mayor Menino said. The budget season is still young. Boston Public Library officials said Tuesday evening they were expecting a six percent cut in the fiscal 2012 budget the governor is rolling out this week. The figure comes to about $145,000. There’s also the issue of $350,000 in one-time extra funds lawmakers managed to toss onto a mini-budget passed at the end of 2010, which allowed the four branches slated for closure to stay open through the end of the fiscal year this coming June. Gov. Deval Patrick is planning to cut local aid to cities and towns by $65 million while increasing spending in education accounts.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop.