(The following article was originally posted on Chuck Turner's blog at the United for Peace with Justice site)
Reflections from Behind the Wall
Anatomy of a FrameUp
This is the fourth installment of an eight part series in which I discuss my two and a half year experience with the Justice Department which resulted in my now being a convicted felon at the work camp of USP Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia.
Riding home from the courthouse with my wife and one of my daughters after escaping the clutches of the media was a welcomed relief after my first day as an accused felon. But I couldn't escape. On the radio, the broadcaster was telling those who had heard and those who hadn't that Councilor Turner not only was arrested but also was stripped by the Council President of all his committee responsibilities and had been invited to an executive session of the City Council the following Monday. Well, at least I'll have a relatively quiet weekend to figure out what to do, I thought.
What I forgot was that the media never sleeps. When I got home, they were there and even though I wouldn't talk to them, they stayed there until all our friends had left. Bright and early the next day, they came back. Different people but with the same insistence on my answering their needs until I asked the police to put up a Do Not Cross per order of the police barrier.
Throughout the day, calls from friends and family gave needed reassurance that I continued to have their support. Particularly helpful were calls from Steve Kirshbaum, School Bus Drivers Union steward and International Action Center leader, and Aaron Tanaka, the organizer for the Boston Workers' Alliance, an organization of unemployed workers that I had helped to organize and that was operating out of my District Office. Their question was whether I wanted them to organize a rally at City Hall on Monday. My immediate response was yes.
Knowing their organizing skills, I knew that all I would have to think about for Monday was what to say at the rally. With the plan for organizing the rally in place, the strategy for dealing with the Council and the Council President was clear. Council President Feeney had invited me to an executive session of the Council which would be just the Council members, the City Clerk, and Corporation Counsel Bill Sinnott, the Mayor's lawyer, who was advising her on strategy. In that setting, I would be like a lamb being led to slaughter since the only votes I could depend on would be the votes of the three Councilors of color.
However. I had a plan B. Under the Council rules, I had a right to call for a public meeting. This would give me leverage because if Steve and Aaron could turn out my supporters, Feeeney would be psychologically intimidated and would probably cancel the meeting rather than attempt to take action against me while my supporters watched. With the sense that the tide was beginning to flow with me rather than against me, I concentrated on writing the letter to the Council President to let her know that I wanted an open meeting as well as writing a speech for the rally.
My plan was to use the rally to pick holes in the prosecution's case. The flaws were clear in the FBI affidavit that laid out their case. What better time and place to rip their case to shreds than in front of City Hall with a crowd of my supporters. However, after spending hours on Saturday and Sunday writing and rewriting my speech, my lawyers let me know in very certain terms that it was their job to defend me, not mine. Why help those who were trying to put you in jail, by showing them our key arguments, they said repeatedly.
My response was that while I understood their legal perspective, I was an elected official facing an election in less than a year. I couldn't allow the media to try to convict me in the court of public opinion and keep quiet. That would be tantamount to saying that I was guilty and conceding defeat in the election. One of the reasons for my popularity was that I had always spoken truth to power. I could not ask people to believe that I was innocent and to vote for me despite the charges while saying that I couldn't talk about the case on advice of Council. Their response, I reasoned, would be that I must be guilty if I wasn't willing to talk about the case.
Thus on the evening of November 23, 2008 began the great debate between myself and my lawyers that didn't end until October 25, 2010 when I took the stand to testify in my own defense. There are many who were close to that debate who will say that I am at USP Hazelton today not because of the skills of my prosecutor or the strength of their case but because I refused to follow my lawyer's advice and keep my mouth shut. In all candor, I have to admit that they might be right. However, as I said on a number of occasions, I would rather go to jail than stop living by my principles which required that I speak out in my own defense. I couldn't give up my integrity even if it meant that I had to go to jail. That's the way I felt two and a half years ago. Today, I continue to believe that I did the right thing even though I sit here, a convicted felon at the beginning of my three year sentence.
While I believed I couldn't sacrifice my principles, I had to recognize the logic of their argument and began to walk a tight rope that I hoped would take me to a not guilty verdict. So I changed the speech to focus more on the politics of my situation rather than the specifics of the case. Even with that compromise, Terri and my lawyers warned me that the prosecutors would be listening to my every word and would try to use what I said against me at every possible opportunity. They were right. Almost every time I went to court, the prosecutors would make some reference to what I was saying in the court of public opinion as you will see as I proceed to describe what happened in my almost three year struggle with the Justice Department.
The next day at City Hall was a blur of activity: Reporters demanding their pound of flesh; friends and supporters coming and calling to wish me well; discussions with staff about next steps to make sure our constituents' needs were being met, despite my problems. Then at 1:15, an excited staff member rushed into the office to say that our strategy of holding a rally at City Hall before the Council meeting had worked. Council President Feeney, seeing my supporters beginning to gather for the rally and having seen my letter asking for an open meeting announced at her press conference that she was canceling the Council meeting "in the interests of public safety." She said that she would wait until a grand jury indictment before deciding her next steps.
At 2:25, joined by Terri and friends, I proceeded down stairs to the rally. While I had heard reports of growing numbers, I had decided to wait until the rally to go to the plaza. As I neared the doors leading to City Hall Plaza, I was literally amazed. Knowing the skills of those organizing the rally, I had expected a good turnout. I was not expecting to see the plaza filled with young and old; black, white, Latino, Asian, Cape Verdean looking faces-a virtual rainbow of the city. Throughout the crowd signs in the red and white campaign colors were waving, proclaiming Support Chuck Turner: Bold, Bald, and Bright. Estimates were that over 500 people came to support me that Monday afternoon.
Looking at the magnificent turnout, all I could say was Thank You God. I knew that the physical work had been done by Steve, Aaron, and a myriad of others. I also knew that this out pouring of love and support was based on the spirit in the hearts of people moving them to come to my defense in my greatest moment of need. Naturally, I began my speech by announcing that their presence had brought our first victory--the cancellation of the hearing by Council President Feeney. However, I reminded them that winning a battle does not end a war and that I would continue to need their support during the coming months and possibly years as the legal process worked its way through the courts.
I called attention to the fact that I had not even been indicted by the grand jury and yet the media was finding me guilty. What happened to the alleged right in this country for a person to be considered innocent until convicted by a jury of his or her peers. I said that I was not going to stand by while the media worked to convince the public of my guilt even before my lawyers had seen the alleged evidence. I declared that while my lawyers would defend me in the court of laws, I would from this day forth be my own lawyer in the court of public opinion.
In closing, I reminded them that we had to keep the faith as we had in the past and must in the future, that the righteousness of our cause would carry us ultimately to victory. We had to understand that behind the clouds that have and will continue to darken our path the sun always shines, leading us to victory. I also warned them that the police were waiting inside City Hall to make Councilor Feeney's prophecy of a disturbance at City Hall a reality and asked every one to go back to the community and spread the word that I was inviting people to join me at my community office in two days, the day before Thanksgiving to discuss our next steps. (That was the rally that I discussed in Installment 1).
A month later, a week after my December 10th indictment, Council President Feeney announced that she had hired a prominent Boston lawyer who had been a judge magistrate to act as a fact finder in my case. She didn't announce that the Mayor had agreed to let her use City money to pay him at the rate of $500 an hour. When I saw the report in the paper, I said to some friends that I knew that the Mayor didn't want me around but I didn't think he was willing to pay that much. I guess I was having more impact than I thought.
At the next Council meeting, I argued that the process the Council President was initiating would jeopardize my right to a fair trial in federal court. For the Council President to pay a fact finder to try to gather "evidence" that could be used against me in a Council process would put me on trial in front of the Council before my trial in federal court had begun. How would my lawyer be involved in this process, I questioned? Without my lawyer's involvement, it would be in effect a kangaroo court. At the end of my presentation, the presiding officer, Council President Feeney, moved on to the next issue.
Despite the controversy regarding the Mayor's authorizing $500 an hour for the fact finder. Council President Feeney did not relent. Then on January 5, 2009, two significant events took place that dramatically changed the situation. First, at ten a.m. that morning the City Council voted to elect Mike Ross, district Councilor representing Beacon Hill, Back Bay, and Mission Hill, City Council President. That afternoon Assistant US Attorney John McNeil, representing US Attorney Sullivan, filed a motion in federal court asking Judge Magistrate Hillman to require that I sign what he called a protective order and I called a "gag" order, requiring that I and my lawyers agree not to talk in public about any of their evidence before receiving it.
McNeil had asked in December that I sign such an order which I refused to do for a number of reasons. Since Sullivan had released on the day of my arrest, "photographic evidence of my guilt", taken by his agent, I thought it ridiculous that I should sign away my right to do the same if I chose. In addition, at a time when people were questioning Feeney's efforts to oust me from the Council when she was under investigation herself, Sullivan released a conversation between the Senator and Council President where Feeney challenged the Senator's maneuvers. Obviously, this was designed to take suspicion away from her. I also had heard that my prosecutor, McNeil, was preparing to release information to the fact finder. So as I said, it seemed ridiculous to agree to a standard that they were not willing to follow.
Also, since I was planning to run for City Council the following November and knew my constituents would expect me to talk about the case, I didn't want to put myself in a position where I would have to worry that anything I said about my innocence and Sullivan's frame-up could be connected to the "evidence" and subject me to another arrest, jail time, and forfeiture of the bail bond. The third reason was that it seemed to me that they were asking me to give up my First Amendment rights which I would not do.
The action by McNeil put a lot of stress on my legal team which will be discussed in the next installment--What First Amendment?. At the same time, it opened the door for Council President Ross to dismiss the fact finder. Since the government was barring me from discussing any of the evidence publicly, Ross reasoned that the fact finder would be similarly barred and therefore would have no ability to present information to the Council about my alleged crime. Looking ahead to the future, he proposed as part of the Council rules that if any Council member was convicted of a felony, the Council would have the right to meet and decide what action to take.
I supported Council President Ross' position. Since he had dismissed the fact finder, I realized he needed something to appease those in the court of public opinion who wanted my head. However, even if convicted I didn't think that the Council had any authority to remove me from the Council. Under state law, only if convicted and sentenced to jail would I have to vacate the seat. Nevertheless, the Council did remove me after my conviction.
An eminent, retired Boston lawyer, Chester Darling, based on his view that the Council had no legal right to remove me, volunteered to come out of retirement to represent me and to challenge the Council's action in federal court. Mark Wolf, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts federal bench accepted the case but asked the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) to give their opinion before he makes a ruling since the case involves state election laws. We expect the SJC to have their hearing on the issue this October.
Before leaving this narrative of the Council aspect of my three year struggle, let me clarify that the Council as a body did not authorize any of Council President Feeney's actions or seem to play a role in their development. The Council President's only advisor in City Hall seemed to be Corporation Counsel Sinnott, the Mayor's lawyer. In fact, I was very pleased with the fact that the the Councilors handled a difficult situation in a very professional manner. I never felt that the accusations against me stopped them or in fact City employees from working with me on the issues and concerns of my constituents.
As expected, the three councilors of color, Charles Yancey, Felix Arroyo, and Sam Yoon were very supportive, continuing the process of our working together as Team Unity. Initially, however, I was surprised by my periodic conversations with Steve Murphy, an at large Councilor from Hyde Park. The first time we talked about the situation, he approached me and said that he really felt very sorry about what was happening. He said that his father who had been a policeman and prosecutor had told him that based on his experience, he thought that I was innocent and that he believed his father's view.
Steve and I had worked effectively together on some issues, especially discrimination against those with criminal records. We also had clashed on other issues. However, our interactions around my arrest and indictment seemed to rise above the day to day tension of Boston politics. We seemed to be able to make a human connection based on what seemed to be an empathy he felt for my dilemma. In another conversation, he said that he knew I couldn't have been involved in a conspiracy with the Senator because during the period of the alleged conspiracy, she refused to support his at large candidacy because he chaired a hearing I sponsored focusing negatively on her support for a dormitory Northeastern University wanted to build on land in our district.
1) Triple Teamed:
In installments two and three, I discussed how US prosecutors carry out doubling teaming. The most obviously instance is through their relationship with the media. As the prosecutors, they bring the evidence to the grand jury, receive the indictments, and then go to court to begin the legal process. However, often before even getting an indictment from the grand jury, they initiate the media process in the court of public opinion as they did in my case.
Thus the defendant finds himself or herself double teamed. In federal court, the defendant has to face the charges that are being brought by prosecutors with all the weapons that they have at their disposal. While in the court of public opinion, the defendant has to face the constant barrage of publicity designed to convince the public of the person's guilt long before the defendant has the ability to defend his/herself in federal court.
Yes, the judge will, when seating the jury, will try to screen out those who have formed opinions based upon the media or discussions with friends, colleagues, and/or coworkers. However, such screening is an imperfect process at best. In addition, the effect of all the negative publicity on the defendant can have a significantly negative effect on the defendants' life and circumstances long before the trial begins.
In my case, I was tripled teamed. Let me show you how the process unfolded by discussing again the day of my arrest. At 6:15 a.m., the first team, the US Attorney's special police, the FBI, accompanied by Boston police officers, came to my office to arrest me. At 7:30, the second team went into action as the media spread the stories throughout the city, state, and country that I had been arrested.
At 9:00, the quarterback, so to speak, of the first team, US Attorney Sullivan, went before the members of the second team, the media, who had been summoned to receive his statement and the "photographic evidence of my guilt" that would be spread around the nation immediately after the press conference. Thus even before my indictment, the first and second team had initiated a "full court press" so to speak focusing on my guilt.
At noon, the third team took the field as Boston City Council President announced to the members of second team that as President of the Council she was immediately suspending my City Council committee responsibilities and summoning me to an executive session of the Council on the next working day, Monday, November 24, 2008. This obviously reinforced the idea in the minds of the public that I must be guilty. If the Council immediately was taking action, then they must have been aware of Turner's corrupt activities even before his arrest.
What the public who heard her pronouncement didn't know was that Council President Feeney had not conferred with other Council members before taking action. She had, however by her own later admission, discussed the issue with William Sinnott, the Mayor's lawyer, known as the Corporation Counsel. It is also probable that they didn't know that both Council President Feeney and the Mayor at the time of my arrest were also being investigated given their involvement with the efforts to obtain a liquor license for Wilburn.
My statement that I was triple teamed is based on my belief that Council President Feeney was working closely with the US Attorney's office on the coordination of her actions against me. Given the role that Corporation Counsel Sinnott was playing with the Council President he would also have to be working with the US Attorney's office. While I am sure that the Mayor was not working directly with Sullivan and his office, he certainly had to know what Sinnott and Feeney were doing. I will acknowledge that I don't have photographic and telephonic evidence to present to support my belief. However, I do have what I consider strong circumstantial evidence, particularly relating to the Council President.
First, consider that the announcement of my arrest began to be broadcast around 7:30 a.m. This means that the earliest that the Council President could have learned of my arrest if she was not part of the team was around 8 a.m. This would mean that between that time and noon, she would have to think about next steps and contact Corporation Counsel Sinnott since she was not a lawyer and would have felt the need for legal guidance. They then would have had to meet to develop a strategy before calling the press to start the media process. While it could have happened without prior knowledge, I am doubtful, particularly because the Council President is known to be controversy adverse, so it is difficult to conceive her moving quickly without Council consultation to take what I think was bold and controversial action.
The other reason for my belief is that I think she was very vulnerable to pressure from the Attorney General's office based on her involvement in helping the Senator obtain a liquor license for Mr. Wilburn. If you examine the FBI affidavit that was issued at the time of the Senator's arrest approximately three weeks before my arrest, it referenced a meeting that took place at the state house regarding a liquor license for Wilburn. This meeting was initiated by a call from Council President Feeney to the Senate President Teresa Murray at the request of the Senator.
The purpose of the meeting that took place on August 16th was to work out a deal to get an all purpose liquor license for Wilburn. At the meeting were the Senator; Senate President Murray; Senator Montigney, head of the Senate Licensing Committee; Council President Feeney; and Chairperson Potaski of the Liquor License Commission. The affidavit states that an agreement was reached to have Council President Feeney write a home rule petition which after approval by the Council and Mayor would be sent to the State Legislature which has to approve the creation of new liquor licenses. Five new all purpose licenses would be created one of which would be given to Mr. Wilburn and the rest distributed with the advice of the Senator. Returning to City Hall Council President Feeney took responsibility to have the home rule petition presented to the Council without a hearing and approved by a voice vote, not a roll call.
I am not saying that the Council President received money from Sullivan's agent Wilburn in return for this action. Even though Sullivan tried to make it look like my support for additional licenses was based on a deal with Wilburn, my support grew out of support for the fairness of increasing the number of all purpose liquor licenses for establishments operating in the Greater Roxbury community. Thus, I can not say that her actions did not have the same motivations as mine--fairness and justice. I am very doubtful, however, that she would have moved as quickly, forcefully, and continuously to remove me without the guidance of the US Attorney given the cloud of suspicion, hanging over her, because of her key role in obtaining a license for Wilburn. That is why I believe I was a victim of a triple team coordinated by Sullivan.
2) Two Juries of My Peers
From the moment the press began the campaign to convict me in the court of public opinion, my position was that I had a right to be considered innocent until I had a trial before a jury of my peers. However, the Council aspect of the triple team, led by Council President Feeney, presented me with a situation where I was going to have two juries of my peers. By summoning me to meet with the Council even before being indicted, it seemed that Council President Feeney and Corporation Counsel Sinnott were trying to establish the Council in the minds of the court of public opinion as a jury of my peers with a right to speak to their belief of my guilt or innocence before the legal process even began in court.
However, what could the Council say. Without an indictment by the grand jury, there wouldn't even be a trial. I had no doubt that Sullivan could get the grand jury to indict me. The Council, however, had no right to make that assumption. The Council could not take any action on the basis of the arrest. Sullivan had a right to get an arrest warrant if in his opinion a person under investigation was a flight risk or a danger to the public, neither of which were relevant in my case. Taking an action on the basis of my arrest would create, I believed, more of a problem for Sullivan than for me. Logically, it seemed that the only purpose was to put the Council in the position of a jury of my peers in the court of pubic opinion.
Based on Council rules since the executive session would focus on a personnel issue, the discussion could not be discussed publicly, creating a vacuum in which the media could speculate about the actions the Council was planning to take. While the Council had no power to act, the public would not be informed of that and would believe the likely media spin that they were planning to remove me. This would obviously reinforce the idea that I was guilty. The only way to stop the clever psychological scheme by the Council President and Corporation Counsel was to demand that the meeting be public which I did. Their only alternative was to retreat, call off the Council meeting, and lose the first round which they did.
The Council President had lost the first round. Once I had been indicated, however, with pressure, I believe, from the US Attorney's office and Corporation Counsel Sinnott, she again tried to position the Council as my judge and jury. This time she hired a former judge magistrate at a mayoral approved rate of $500 an hour to gather "facts" about my case that could be presented to the Council.
To me, this represented the most serious challenge to date. Sullivan had released on the day of arrest `photographic evidence of my guilt’. A few weeks later, his office released parts of a transcript of a recorded conversation between the Senator and the Council President in order to take suspicions off Feeney. I had no doubt he would find a way to provide "evidence about my crime" for the fact finder to put in a report that Feeney would then use to attempt to get the Council to speak out against me in its role as a quasi jury of my peers.
The triple team failed when the new Council President, Mike Ross, realized that since Sullivan was trying to force me to sign a `gag’ order, the fact finder would not be able to obtain evidence from the US Attorney that could be shared with the Council. I believe that if I had voluntarily agreed to sign the`gag’ order, they would have continued their process of releasing information when it was helpful to their efforts to get rid of me, one way or the other. This would have enabled the fact finder to issue a report that would have looked substantive and enabled Feeney to continue her efforts to oust me. The significance of this ploy is that it was conducted with, I believe, the active support of the federal office which is supposed to assure not only public safety but also justice in Massachusetts.
3) Selective Prosecution:
In two interviews with a Boston Globe columnist, Ron Wilburn said that he did not understand why other people were not arrested in addition to the Senator and I. This led people in the community to think that Wilburn had gathered evidence on others who could be brought to trial but were not. This also led people to think that Sullivan's actions toward the Senator and I were part of what seemed to be a national Bush attack on black public officials after eight US prosecutors were fired for not using their powers politically. Unfortunately, Wilburn, who also said in one of the interviews that I was innocent and who later said that he would not testify, never shared the information that he had regarding who he believed should have been brought to trial. Perhaps, one day Wilburn will see the light and reveal the truth.
I believe that US Attorneys in order to keep the political spotlight on some and not on others will select those whom they believe it is in their interest to prosecute while others are allowed to resign. I believe that is why Dan Potaski, the chairperson of the Boston Licensing Commission, quietly resigned after the Senator changed her plea to guilty in June of 2010. Since he was still in his fifties and unable to receive a full pension, there was no apparent reason for him to resign. My belief is that this is an example of selective prosecution.
Sullivan had the evidence, I believe, to bring Potaski to trial but since he wanted the public to associate the idea of public corruption with two black officials, he allowed Potaski to resign. Also, the resignation prevented the spotlight that would have been put on the Commission and its historical role in the issuing of liquor licenses that would have come out as the trial progressed. Given the fact that the Wilburn's FBI handler admitted at my trial that nobody wanted the hearing I sponsored to take place because of the potential embarrassment to the Commission, it is clear that they wouldn't want to put Potaski on trial.
I do not have photographic evidence or recorded conversations to verify my belief but I think there is circumstantial evidence beyond Potaski's resignation itself. The FBI affidavit presented at the time of the Senator's arrest contained transcriptions of recorded conversations in which Steve Miller, principle in the law firm that represents over 70% of the successful liquor license applicants in Boston, told Wilburn that he would obtain a liquor license for him from Potaski even without Wilburn attending the hearing. He was a man of his word even though the license was only a beer and wine license. However, since Wilburn had no place to use the license, the issuance was a clear violation of the law.
In addition, when Wilburn was on the stand at my trial, he said that when Miller told him he wanted to help because his friend Arthur Winn, a supporter of the Senator, had asked him, he said there would be no charge. However, Wilburn said that later Miller had asked him to give him I think the amount was $1000, but Miller didn't say why he was asking for the money since he had originally offered his services free of charge.
When I heard Wilburn's testimony I had to wonder if this money from the FBI that Wilburn provided to Miller was used to put Potaski in a position where he either had to resign or face criminal charges. I assume that we will never know why the money was asked for or who was the eventual recipient. What we do know is that as soon as the Senator's case was over, Potaski quietly left the position of power that he had held for years. That is why I believe that Potaski's resignation is an example of selective prosecution.
C) Action Steps:
Action steps proposed in Installments two and three would enable prosecutors to be criminally charged and sued as well as limit public discussion of evidence until the trial are key to curbing prosecutorial terrorism such as we see in my case. However, the question of selective prosecution is one that I haven't discussed. I believe that this issue would require the creation of an office within the Justice Department that would have responsibility to review the actions of the US Attorneys relating to the questions of selective prosecutions, use of criminals in investigations, arrest practices, as well as other areas that can not be dealt with through the creation of laws.
The other issue raised by this installment relates to the question of the appropriate means of handling alleged criminal behavior by elected officials. As I have stated, I think Council President Feeney's actions regarding my arrest and indictment were unjust and politically motivated. Yet, I acknowledge that the arrest of a public official on charges of betraying his or her public trust is a serious and difficult situation, particularly if the person charged is a member of a legislative body. The other members of the body will undoubtedly hear calls for action to be taken against the accused official. At the same time, the constituents supporting the official will insist that the right to replace the person is not the legislative body's but the constituents' through the elective process.
If there are rules in place that prescribe the steps that can be legally taken, it is a less difficult situation since the members of the legislative body will be within their rights to take whatever action is dictated by the law, whether that action is popular or not. The more difficult situation is the one faced by the Boston City Council when I was arrested and indicted. In that situation, there was no legal framework in place. I commend Councilor Ross for his decision to set up a rule so that if I was convicted, there would be a framework for action although the rule was vague on what action could be taken which led to my legal challenge of my ouster in December of 2010.
For those of you living in an area where your city council or state legislative bodies have no laws governing the action that can be taken in such a situation, I urge you to petition the body to explore the alternatives by researching methods employed by legislative bodies throughout the country. This would then present them with a wide range of options for consideration. The key issue is the need for a process to be in place before an elected official finds himself or herself indicted for a crime.
In the midst of the controversy regarding Council President Feeney's actions, Mel King, the Godfather and guru of Boston community based politics, made a suggestion that I think has merit. His idea was that the process should keep the power in the hands of the people. In that light, he suggested that a special election be held within a relatively short period of time in order to assess whether the person continued to have the support of his constituents.
I would suggest that rather than make it a competitive election that consideration be given to structuring as a vote of confidence. If the person was able to get the majority of votes, then they would have received a mandate for staying in office until the trial is completed. If the person was found guilty, then the process for dealing with convicted elected officials could take place. If s/he did not receive a majority of the votes, the person would have to take a leave until after the trial.
There are problems with this approach such as the limited information about the crime that would be available. Also, the cost of the election would be a concern. In addition, if the person was required to take a leave, then there is a vacuum of representation. If the special election is competitive, would the public be able to focus on the issues confronting the district or would all the focus be on the guilt or innocence of the official. However, an approach based on voting would resolve the issue of whether the constituents wanted the person to continue to serve. The most important lesson is that political bodies need to think ahead to assure there are appropriate strategies to deal with this type of situation.
Next Week: What First Amendment?”