Wilkerson campaign finance cases still pending

March 7, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

Perjury ‘review’ gets dropped

A state lawsuit against state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson alleging various campaign finance problems—a major issue in the 2006 campaign—remains unresolved, according to state officials. So does a second campaign finance complaint filed by the state right before the 2006 election.

But another 2006 scandal appears to have been resolved in Wilkerson’s favor. That was a “review” of possible perjury charges in a criminal case by Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley.

Wilkerson blasted the “review” at the time as a political smear tactic. Her attorney, Jeffrey Denner, told the Gazette last week that the case appears to be dead.

“That just disappeared, as we knew it would,” Denner told the Gazette. “This was a silly case.”

The DA’s Office has not responded to repeated Gazette requests for updates on the case since 2006.

Wilkerson declined to comment last week about the 2008 campaign, where she again faces challenger Sonia Chang-Díaz, an outspoken critic of Wilkerson’s legal problems. [See related article.] In 2006, Wilkerson dismissed her problems as “personal” or “personality” issues that should have no place in political campaigns.

Since entering the 2nd Suffolk District Senate seat in 1993, Wilkerson has faced repeated legal problems, most of them related to personal and campaign finances.

The most serious was a 1997 conviction for failure to file federal income taxes, followed by her incarceration in a halfway house after violating house arrest.

In 2005, the state filed a civil lawsuit against Wilkerson, alleging tens of thousands of dollars in unreported, undocumented and illegal contributions and payments in her 2000 and 2001 campaign finance reports. Wilkerson has fought the suit while never directly denying its allegations.

The lawsuit is still working its way through the system and is currently in the evidence-gathering phase, according to Attorney General’s Office spokesperson Emily LaGrassa.

Six days before Wilkerson won the 2006 election, the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) referred a new complaint to the Attorney General’s Office. That complaint alleged Wilkerson violated various campaign finance laws—including “personal use of campaign funds” and “receipt of excess contributions”—in the 2003-04 election cycle.

That complaint also remains unresolved and has not resulted in a lawsuit or other official action at this point, according to LaGrassa.

“We are still working with the senator and her campaign committee to resolve all issues on 2003 and 2004,” said OCPF spokesperson Brad Balzer.

Wilkerson has not commented publicly on the 2003-04 complaint.

Balzer said no other complaints about Wilkerson have been referred by OCPF to the Attorney General’s Office since then.

The perjury-charge “review” issue was raised in the middle of the 2006 campaign. It came out of an unusual criminal case where Wilkerson has argued that one of her nephews is actually guilty of a 1994 killing for which another of her nephews was convicted.

In a hearing for a retrial in the case, Wilkerson testified that she was in a Boston Police interrogation room when a witness made statements indicating her nephew’s innocence, and that police officers turned off a tape recorder so those comments were not recorded.

The judge in the hearing indicated suspicion of Wilkerson’s testimony. Conley later announced a “review” of possible perjury charges against Wilkerson after the Boston Police detectives’ union wrote him a complaint letter.

Wilkerson said at the time that the supposed “review” was political payback for her criticism of some Boston Police policies following the arrests of several officers for drug trafficking.

Denner previously said there was no evidence to warrant even a “review.” Last week, Denner told the Gazette that the DA’s Office has never taken further action and never spoke to him again about the “review.”

Asked if he thought it was politically motivated, Denner said he does not make those kinds of judgments, instead sticking to legal facts.

“From our perspective, it had no merit to it,” he said. “We expected it would go nowhere, and it went nowhere.”