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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Police defend deal with hitman witness in Connolly trial

Police defend deal with hitman witness in Connolly trial
The Boston Globe by Shelley Murphy - September 19, 2008

MIAMI -- The former head of the Massachusetts State Police told a Florida jury today that investigators "had sleepless nights" after cutting a deal with a confessed hitman, but insisted it had to be done to solve numerous murders and uncover corruption by former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. and other law enforcement officers. "I don't feel good about it now,'' said Thomas J. Foley, referring to the deal that allowed John Martorano to go free last year after serving just 12 years for 20 murders. But, he said, the deal was necessary because without it, "we wouldn't have solved those homicides. We wouldn't have brought closure to those families'' or rooted out corruption. "If John Connolly and the FBI had done their job, we wouldn't have been in that situation," he later added.

The testimony comes on the fifth day of Connolly's trial on state murder charges that carry a possible life sentence. Connolly, 68, is accused of leaking sensitive information to his longtime informants, James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, that prompted them to arrange the murder of Boston business consultant John B. Callahan. Martorano, who carried out the murder, is a key witness in the case. Callahan's bullet-riddled body was found in the trunk of his Cadillac at Miami International Airport on Aug. 2, 1982. Yesterday, Martorano offered jurors a chilling account of how he killed his victims, including Callahan. A once-decorated agent, Connolly retired from the FBI in 1990 after 22 years. The jury considering his fate has not been told that Connolly is already serving 10 years in federal prison for his 2002 racketeering conviction for protecting Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution and warning them to flee just before their indictment in 1995. The 79-year-old Bulger, now wanted in 19 murders, remains a fugitive on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Flemmi, who is serving a life sentence for 10 murders, is cooperating with the government and is expected to take the stand against his former handler sometime next week.

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