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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Agent Seen As Mob Gang Insider

FBI's Connolly Was 'Taking Care Of Us'
By EDMUND H. MAHONY - Courant Staff Writer - September 24, 2008

MIAMI — For 15 years, some of the most feared gangsters in Boston said ex- FBI agent John Connolly took care of them. In fact, they said, he was part of the gang. They said he leaked them law enforcement intelligence that enabled them to kill three potential witnesses — two of whom could have implicated their Winter Hill Gang in a conspiracy to obtain a foothold in the U.S. jai alai gambling industry. It was only fitting, one of those gangsters testified Tuesday, that the Winter Hill Gang do something for Connolly when he retired from the FBI in 1990 and accepted a six-figure position with a Massachusetts utility company. "We gave him a $10,000 retirement bonus," Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi said Tuesday. As it turned out, Connolly's support of the Winter Hill Gang didn't end with his retirement, Flemmi said during his second day as a principal prosecution witness in Connolly's trial on murder and conspiracy charges in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

Flemmi said Connolly moved into a condominium next door to James "Whitey" Bulger in the gang's home turf of South Boston and continued to work his network of FBI contacts to the gang's advantage. Connolly kept the gang up-to-date on developments in the jai alai case, Flemmi said, even though the case had been all but dead since August 1982, when the gang, acting on a Connolly tip, killed John B. Callahan, former president of World Jai Alai. Callahan was the last surviving witness likely to have linked Winter Hill to the murder of World Jai Alai president Roger Wheeler Sr. in May 1981. Connolly faces a life sentence if convicted in the Callahan murder. More important, Flemmi said Connolly kept the gang "apprised" of what, in the early 1990s, was an unusually secretive Massachusetts State Police and Drug Enforcement Administration investigation of the Winter Hill Gang. Connolly couldn't kill the investigation, but he could tip gang members in advance to the indictment, enabling them, as Flemmi said, to go "on the lam." It was a service Flemmi said Connolly had provided earlier to one of the gang members who was indicted in an East Coast horse-race-fixing case.

In late December 1994, Flemmi said Connolly alerted Bulger that there would be indictments in January. Bulger ran and remains at large. Despite repeated warnings, Flemmi didn't. He said he was ready; he had money in an account in the Cayman Islands and an apartment rented in Montreal. But he delayed and was arrested on Jan. 5, 1995, and has been in prison since. "I'll never forget the date," he testified Tuesday. Still, he said, Connolly continued to work for him. Flemmi said Connolly became a secret member of his defense team. Much of what Flemmi originally was indicted for in 1995 involved gambling and loan-sharking. Flemmi's lawyer began preparing what he called an authorization and immunity defense. He would argue that he was authorized to commit the crimes as an FBI informant and, therefore, should be given immunity from prosecution. Flemmi said Connolly began leaking FBI records to his defense team that tended to prove that Flemmi, on repeated occasions over a career in crime, was acting on the basis of information provided by the FBI. He also testified that Connolly was the author of a letter, purporting to be from three anonymous Boston detectives, to U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf in Boston, who was presiding over Flemmi's case.

The letter said the 1995 indictment was the result of a conspiracy by corrupt Massachusetts law enforcement officials. Bulger and Flemmi, the letter said, were indicted on the basis of fabricated evidence and illegal wire taps. The letter backfired. It became part of a body of evidence that prompted an extraordinary hearing in federal court in Boston. As a result of the findings from the hearings, gang members negotiated cooperation agreements with prosecutors under which they got relatively lenient sentences in return for their help in closing the books on dozens of unsolved murders. Connolly was charged with murder. Flemmi pleaded guilty to 10 murders and was sentenced to life plus 30 years. Even before the murders became part of the case, Flemmi said that neither Connolly nor any others among a half-dozen agents he said he paid over the years would testify in support of his defense — that many of the crimes he committed were in the service of law enforcement. At that point, Flemmi said his goal became "self-preservation." "John Connolly was aware that we were in business together for many years," Flemmi said. "I expected him to come forward and help me. I'm talking about him coming forward and admitting he was taking care of us for many years. John Connolly had ulterior motives himself. Self-preservation also applies to him. "Everyone was looking out for themselves," Flemmi said.

Connolly's principal defense lawyer, Manuel Casabielle, tried to pick Flemmi's testimony apart at midday Tuesday, when he began his cross-examination. But it was hard to tell who was ahead at the end of the day. Casabielle succeeded in getting Flemmi to admit that the Winter Hill Gang had dozens of police officers on the payroll, and he implied in his questions that law enforcement information could have been leaked by any of them. Much of the case against Connolly since the trial began Sept. 15 involves allegations that Connolly knew that the gang was using his leaked information to kill witnesses. Tuesday, Casabielle got Flemmi to concede he never discussed the murders with Connolly. Flemmi fired back that he didn't need to. "It was obvious from the information that people were killed," Flemmi said. "He gave us information, and we acted on the information, and we killed people." "Are you saying," Casabielle continued, "that you can read Mr. Connolly's mind?" "If he gives us information on one person," Flemmi said, "and that person gets killed. And if he gives us information on a second person, and that person gets killed. And if he gives us information on a third person, and that person gets killed — I mean, he's in the FBI. He's not a stupid person."  Contact Edmund H. Mahony at

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