A Chicago man accused of illegally lobbying Illinois politicians in a failed bid to lift economic sanctions against President Mugabe and Zimbabwe vehemently denied wrongdoing Thursday, saying he had a long and unblemished record as a liaison to African governments.
After U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown released him on his own recognizance, Turner told reporters at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse he had spent 30 years trying to lift Africans out of economic despair, efforts that often involved collaboration with numerous "politicians and business delegations."
His court-appointed attorney, James Tunick, said the facts will show that Turner has "always dealt openly and honestly with various governments" on the continent.
Turner's LinkedIn profile lists his title as "independent international trade and development professional." The judge noted that Turner reported to court officials that he collects Social Security as his sole income and cannot afford an attorney.
Turner and his longtime friend Prince Asiel Ben Israel were charged in an alleged scheme to get newly elected President Barack Obama in late 2008 in 2009 to lift sanctions against the violent and oppressive regime of Zimbabwe's long time President Robert Mugabe.
According to the charges, Turner and Ben Israel tried to persuade an Illinois state senator and two U.S. representatives from Chicago to push for the lifting of the sanctions. The two reached a consulting agreement with high-level Zimbabwe officials to be paid $3.4 million, authorities charged, but their efforts failed as the president continued the sanctions first imposed under the administration of George W. Bush.
The charges do not name any of the politicians, but details included in the charges made it clear that among the lawmakers the two dealt with were state Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, and U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Bobby Rush, both Chicago Democrats. None of the public officials was accused of wrongdoing.
Records show that Turner, who used to go by the name Clarence Turner Jr., was charged in 1985 with passport fraud as part of a sweeping federal case against members of the Chicago-based Black Hebrew Israelites. Turner and Ben Israel were known to be high-ranking members of the group. Ben Israel, who was also known then as Warren Brown, also was charged in that case, according to Tribune reports.
Ben Israel appeared in court last week and was released on his own recognizance. In the 1990s he made headlines as an organizer of several "gang peace summits" that purported to negotiate a truce between the city's gang leaders but also was ridiculed as a stunt for TV cameras. He also collected signatures from politicians and others seeking the release of Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover, who remains in federal prison on drug and other charges. Chicago tribune