BOSTON — A federal judge on Thursday ordered prosecutors to produce affidavits explaining why photographs were released and publicity generated following the arrests of two Boston politicians on corruption charges last year.
The lead prosecutor in the case said he would have to determine whether he could comply.
Judge Douglas Woodlock told a pretrial hearing audience he wants to evaluate whether prosecutors tried to "gin things up" among the public following the arrests of former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner.
Woodlock said he wanted to examine whether disclosures in their complaints _ including widely disseminated photographs of the two Democrats allegedly accepting bribes, Wilkerson's in her bra _ were more "fulsome" than necessary. He also said he wanted to understand any reasoning behind showing the defendants being led to court, any use of restraints such as shackles and how the defendants represented a risk of flight or a threat to the community to justify any such treatment.
Woodlock said he wanted affidavits by July 16 from anyone involved in the decision-making process, potentially including former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan, a Republican appointee of former President George W. Bush. Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil, who is presenting the government's case, said he would have to determine whether Justice Department rules allow him to comply with the order.
McNeil also offered what amounted to a defense, saying the complaints _ including photographs _ were reviewed by a federal magistrate before the arrest warrants were issued. He also said surprise arrests, restraints and publicity can be used to prevent evidence destruction and witness intimidation.
Woodlock's order dovetailed with concerns raised in a pre-hearing e-mail sent by Turner. Turner alleged that Sullivan targeted him and Wilkerson, two prominent black politicians, at the behest of former Attorney General John Ashcroft _ for whom he now works.
"I personally believe that former Attorney General Ashcroft said to Sullivan that if he could take down Senator Wilkerson and myself, he would put up the money to open the firm of Ashcroft and Sullivan in Boston where they could try to secure business for Halliburton to serve as a base while Sullivan prepares for his run for governor," Turner wrote.
The councilor said prosecutions in other states were similarly biased by three unnamed former U.S. attorneys who now work for the Ashcroft Law Firm. Catherine Hanaway from Missouri, and Johnny Sutton and John Ratcliffe from the western and eastern districts in Texas, respectively, joined the firm about the same time as Sullivan.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Ashcroft, sent a succinct e-mail response.
"LOL," he wrote, using computer parlance for "laughing out loud."
Turner is a Harvard-educated member of the Green-Rainbow Party. The veteran community activist has been on the City Council since 2000.
A staunch supporter of Wilkerson, Turner emerged as a vocal critic of her recent election opponent and complained about the FBI in the aftermath of her arrest in October.
She lost her re-election bid and subsequently resigned her seat. Like Turner, she has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Turner was arrested in November and charged with attempted extortion and making false statements. He is up for election this fall and has pointedly refused to resign his seat.
Woodlock delayed a ruling on the prosecution's request to have Turner publicize any documents provided to him before the trial. The documents include video recordings with images of undercover officers, information on cooperating witnesses, grand jury materials and documents containing names of other people who were or are subjects of criminal investigations.
Turner has said making that agreement would waive his First Amendment rights.
Woodlock set a tentative March 15 trial date. A hearing will be held this fall to determine whether Wilkerson and Turner should receive separate trials.