Massachusetts state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson was arrested by the FBI today and charged with accepting $23,500 in bribes from undercover agents she believed were local businessmen.
Wilkerson, the lone black member of the state Senate, was charged with attempted extortion as a public official and theft of honest services as a state senator. She faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each count.
Wilkerson, 53, lost the Democratic primary in September to Sonia Chang-Diaz, but was running a sticker campaign against her in the Nov. 4 election. She has held her seat in the Senate since 1993, but has faced a number of legal and ethical charges.
Between June 2007 and March 2008, Wilkerson allegedly took $8,500 in cash payments from an undercover agent and a cooperating witness to help a proposed nightclub in her district get a liquor license.
She allegedly pressured the Boston License Board, Mayor Thomas Menino and the City Council on behalf of the nightclub, and delayed legislation that would have increased the salaries of members of the licensing board.
Beginning in June, she allegedly accepted $15,000 in payments in exchange for helping an undercover officer posing as a businessman to avoid the bidding process to develop state property in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood.
The new charges are the latest in a string of troubles to plague the lawmaker. Despite the problems, Wilkerson remained popular in her Boston district and was supported in her primary bid by Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick.
Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.