Dianne Wilkerson spent more than 15 years in the State House serving as a senator. Now she will spend three and a half years in a federal prison as an inmate.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock said besides the scores of letters he got commending her public service as well as the seriousness of her attempted extortion charges, he considered the damage she did to the members of the community she represented.

“There are ligaments that tie a community together. This crime committed after a second chance tore those ligaments,” Woodlock said, referring to Wilkerson’s previous tax evasion charges.

He referred to what she did as the “Wilkerson tax,” meaning that to get representation in her district, people would have to pay.

Thursday’s sentencing could set the bar for later this month when former City Councilor Chuck Turner is sentenced on corruption charges. Woodlock is also the presiding judge in that case.
When her sentence was announced, Wilkerson’s adult sons seated behind her began to cry.

Prior to Woodlock handing down his sentence, Wilkerson and her lawyer, Charles Ogletree, pleaded for Woodlock’s mercy.

Ogletree talked about Wilkerson’s elderly and ailing mother who she is caring for and said that Wilkerson’s siblings and sons were unable to care for her.

Marching orders

Wilkerson is to report to federal prison on or before March 11.

While it will be the final decision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Judge Woodlock said he would recommend that she be held at a facility in Danbury, Conn., the only women’s federal prison in New England.

“There is a community of people in prison who can benefit from a ... forceful person who can represent them in bringing their concerns to the courts and authorities,” he said.