Wilkerson indicted, resigns

November 21, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

Dianne Wilkerson resigned her state Senate seat on Nov. 19, a day after she was formally indicted by a federal grand jury on extortion charges. Her resignation and indictment came three weeks after the FBI arrested her for allegedly taking $23,500 in bribes.

Wilkerson faces up to 120 years in prison and $2 million in fines if convicted on the eight counts of “attempted extortion under color of official right.”

Wilkerson has yet to enter a plea in the case, a step that normally comes after a grand jury indictment. She has issued statements suggesting that she is a victim of a political conspiracy without explicitly declaring her innocence. Her next federal court date was recently moved to Dec. 8.

Her handwritten resignation letter to Senate President Therese Murray was bare-bones, with no explanations or commentary.

In a speech on the Senate floor the same day, Murray said Wilkerson’s resignation was the “right decision.”

“And though one person may cast a temporary shadow, we are too strong, too determined and too righteous as a collective body to allow any doubt to linger,” Murray said in her speech, adding, “I don’t know if we will ever hear an apology from those who should offer one. I hope we do someday.”

Wilkerson is accused of taking cash bribes from undercover FBI agents and a cooperating witness eight times between June 2007 and last month. According to the FBI, Wilkerson secured a nightclub liquor license and attempted to orchestrate a no-bid sale of state land to developers in exchange for the alleged bribes. The indictment demands that Wilkerson return the alleged bribe money.

Various city and state officials—including Murray—have received subpoenas for Wilkerson-related records in the case. The Gazette has learned that the FBI also took undercover footage inside Boston City Council offices last year as part of the case. [See related article.]

“This remains an active investigation,” said US Attorney Michael Sullivan in a press statement. “We intend to aggressive[ly] pursue all leads in this case, more fully digest the evidence we have gathered to date, and bring additional charges as called for by the evidence.”

The FBI, the IRS and the Boston Police Department’s Anti-Corruption Unit continue to investigate the case, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

Wilkerson, the longtime incumbent in the local 2nd Suffolk District seat, lost this year’s election to Jamaica Plain resident Sonia Chang-Díaz. The Senate previously requested Wilkerson’s resignation before her term ends in January. She announced on Nov. 5 that she would resign, but did not set a date.

Wilkerson’s office staff will remain in place under the direct supervision of Murray, continuing to provide constituent services until Chang-Díaz takes office, according to David Falcone, a spokesperson for Murray.

Wilkerson is the second state senator to resign in the past week. J. James Marzilli Jr. of Arlington resigned Nov. 14, several months after being accused of sexually assaulting or harassing several women, including an incident where police chased him on foot through the streets of Lowell.

In her speech, Murray said that the “moral fiber of [the Senate] is strong and unbending,” and promised it will serve residents with “great pride and conviction.”