Perjury or politics?

[Guest blogging: David S. Bernstein]

Last October, I came across state Senator Dianne Wilkerson sitting on a bench on the eighth floor of the Suffolk Superior Courthouse. I asked what she was doing there, and as it happened she was waiting to deliver the testimony that just landed her on the front page of this Sunday’s Boston Herald, ten months later.

I mention this neither to absolve nor impugn her -- I did not know then and do not know now whether her story is true -- but to point out that the story is out now not because anyone was keeping it a secret, but because of the Boston Police Department’s utter loathing for Wilkerson.

Most of what you see about Wilkerson in the papers is leaked from within the BPD. The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association and the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society have long despised Wilkerson, in large part because she has periodically advocated on behalf of those claiming to have been wronged by police. This past January, when Wilkerson penned an 850-word op-ed in the Globe titled “How to Reform the Boston Police,” the BPD’s PR department responded with a 1700 word “clarification” on its blog, and bullied the Globe into fact-checking the op-ed. The only errors the paper found were that Wilkerson gave the wrong number of police districts, and that she claimed none of those districts were led by African-Americans, forgetting that the department had just demoted James Claiborne to be captain of district E13.

I have no idea what the truth is behind the investigation of Wilkerson’s nephew, Jermaine Berry, and his conviction for voluntary manslaughter. But I can pretty much guarantee you that, contrary to the impression given by the Herald, it had not led and will not lead to an investigation into perjury charges against Wilkerson.

That’s because if Wilkerson lied under oath, then so did Reverend Ernest “Gunny” Branch, of Sermon on the Mount Baptist Church in Roxbury. They both claim to have been in the room when Wilkerson’s other nephew was questioned 12 years ago -- directly contradicting the BPD detectives who did the questioning -- and Branch also swore to that under oath. Branch is a highly respected minister and veterans’ activist, who gave an invocation at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

At the courthouse last October, Wilkerson suggested that I contact Branch if I planned to write about her involvement in her nephew’s case. She wasn’t pushing me to write about it, nor was she trying to sneak in and out of court or avoid a reporter’s questions. She told me the whole story, pretty much exactly as you read it Sunday. She was well aware that the testimony she had given and was about to repeat was directly contradicted by detectives.

The judge’s decision, siding with the cops’ version, was published two months later. Seven months went by without a squeak, and suddenly now, a few weeks before Wilkerson faces a primary challenge, the detectives’ union decided to call Wilkerson a perjurer through the Herald. Branch happened to be out of town. I am told that you’ll be hearing from him soon.

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