Dianne Wilkerson is going away for 42 months and that's about right. She has a track record of ethical lapses and showed no signs of turning that around. Is her sentencing part of a "let's make an example out of her" mentality? Possibly but previously disgraced Massachusetts pols were first time offenders for most of their crimes.
US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock agreed with Assistant US Attorney John T. McNeil, who argued that Massachusetts politics have become so cynical that two former House speakers convicted of federal crimes — Charles F. Flaherty and Thomas M. Finneran — were “welcomed back like they were some sort of heroes’’ at State House ceremonies on Wednesday. Neither Flaherty nor Finneran was sentenced to prison.
“It’s clear the sentencing imposed for criminal conduct here and, frankly, in other industrial states, hasn’t been sufficient,’’ said Woodlock. Referring to a culture of political corruption in Massachusetts, Woodlock said, “That Gordian knot has not been cut. People go back to do it again.’’
Politicians are justly held to a higher standard and Wilkerson is no exception. How she managed to get routinely reelected in her district, even after the disclosure of all her problems, is stunning. Wilkerson still had the nerve to run for reelection during all of this and then only dropped her sticker campaign after the prodding of prominent constituents.
Of course this behavior raised its ugly head again after the sentencing when she lashed out at everyone involved in her prosecution.
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."
Wilkerson is going away and Chuck Turner will probably be joining her. Next up on Wheel of Corruption: Massachusetts Edition are Former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and former head of the Probation Department John J. O'Brien.
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