As a television commentator, and when interviewed by print reporters, I have been asked whether I think the defendant made a mistake in testifying at his trial in United States v. Charles Turner, [No. 08-cr-10345]. Of course, as with so many things, hind-sight is 20/20 and the defendant’s conviction on all counts, including making false statements, may well suggest the jury didn’t believe his testimony. Still, it’s a pretty standard assumption that jurors do want to hear the defendant’s side of the story, especially in high stakes cases like this one where the principal allegation was Attempted Extortion in violation of the Hobbs Act, under 18 USC 1951. No matter how many times the Judge properly instructs the Jury on the defendant’s absolute right not to testify (and how they may not hold his silence against him), one’s instinct and inclination is to get on the stand and deny the allegations. Moreover, it is also the defendant’s absolute right to testify, if he is intent on doing so. While trial counsel may certainly, and often does, advise against it, sometimes in very strong terms, if a defendant insists on testifying, there is nothing his attorney can do to stop it, unless he knows his client is about to commit perjury. In this case, it sounds like just that advice—to remain silent and not testify—was given, but ignored. To me, as an observer, unless Chuck Turner could have truthfully taken the stand to testify that he thought the cash he received was a campaign contribution, assumed it was within the maximum allowable limits (for cash contributions) but didn’t bother counting it, gave it to his campaign staff and then forgot about it, it is difficult (for me) to understand what the defendant sought to gain by giving the testimony he wound up giving. This seems especially so in a case where the government had nothing to corroborate how much money was actually given to the defendant other than the testimony of a cooperating witness and his FBI handlers, the videotape of the transaction showed nothing truly discernible exchanging hands, the photographic evidence admitted at trial was blurry and grainy at best, and where the government essentially ended its case in chief with the lead prosecutor arguing with his cooperating witness (who, not so incidentally was paid nearly $30,000 for his involvement) over aspects of their own investigation. In other words, why not quit while ahead, sit back, say nothing and argue to the jury that "the fact that the government’s star witness and the government can’t even agree about what happened in this case is all the reasonable doubt you need"? I guess the only person who truly knows the answer to that question is Chuck Turner, and at the end of the day, he chose to do what he did because it’s his absolute right to decide for himself. The point is also that the only people who truly know whether or not his testimony resulted in his conviction are the twelve jurors who decided his case. However, that, and other questions, may never be answered. The one that ultimately will, though, is whether he will be sentenced to prison. The Sentencing Guidelines for his case suggest he can be, and up to 15-21 months for the attempted extortion alone (possibly more when the 3 false statements convictions are grouped in and/or if perjury points are assessed based on his testimony and possibly less if other relevant sentencing factors are considered under 18 USC 3553a.) Because the Supreme Court ruled several years ago in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38 (2007), and Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U.S. 85 (2007) that the Guidelines are only advisory in nature, the final decision on how much prison time to impose in the Turner case, if any time at all, will be up to the presiding judge.
If you have been accused of a crime and you need a to represent you please contact Brad Bailey at 781-589-2828
About the author:
Brad Bailey was a felony prosecutor in Manhattan (NY) and an Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County (MA), where he prosecuted murders, sex crimes and serious narcotics trafficking cases. He went on to prosecute federal drug crimes and the mafia/organized crime as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston. A six time Super Lawyer and Top 100 Trial Attorney, he is AV rated by Martindale and rated "Superb" by Avvo. Brad has been a member of the defense bar since 1999, and uses his vast experience on both sides of the law to defend clients accused of all manner of serious criminal offenses in both state and federal courts throughout, Massachusetts, New York, the greater New England Region, and elsewhere in the United States. He is widely regarded as one of