Gagging Chuck Turner

by

dan_kennedy_140x14011(Cross-posted from Media Nation.)

By Dan Kennedy

Today we offer a postscript to Chuck Turner’s absurd call for legal sanctions against media outlets that fail to presume his innocence in an ongoing federal corruption probe. Now the government wants to take away Turner’s First Amendment rights. According to Boston Globe reporter Shelley Murphy:

Federal prosecutors urged a judge yesterday to prohibit Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner from revealing, or even talking about, evidence and witnesses the government is relying on to convince a jury that he pocketed a $1,000 bribe.

The best part is a letter written to the judge by Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil, in which he says in part: “Mr. Turner has held a series of press conferences and rallies since he was charged in this matter, aimed in part at bolstering his character and attacking the government’s motives for seeking an indictment against him from the grand jury.” And this is wrong?

McNeil goes on to say that Turner might “selectively” quote from the evidence against him, which could have the effect of “indirectly” intimidating witnesses and otherwise harming the case against him.

According to Laurel Sweet and Ed Mason, writing in the Boston Herald, the gag order sought by prosecutors could also derail an internal investigation by the Boston City Council.

The idea that Turner should be denied a look at the evidence against him unless he agrees to give up his First Amendment right to defend himself in public is offensive and outrageous. If prosecutors fear they can’t win without Turner’s silence, then they must be worried that they don’t have much of a case.

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