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Men wrongly jailed were FBI's 'collateral damage,' lawyer says

BOSTON --A lawyer for the families of four men who spent decades in prison for a murder they didn't commit said the FBI considered their lives "acceptable collateral damage" in the fight against organized crime.

Peter Limone, Joseph Salvati and the families of two other men who died in prison after being convicted in the 1965 killing of Edward "Teddy" Deegan are suing the Department of Justice in U.S. District Court. They are seeking $100 million.

In closing arguments Tuesday, attorney Michael Avery said Boston FBI agents knew that FBI informant Joseph "The Animal" Barboza lied when he named the four men as Deegan's killers.

Avery said the FBI knew Barboza, a Mafia hitman, accused the men to protect fellow FBI informant Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi.

The government has argued federal authorities had no duty to share information with state officials who prosecuted Limone, Salvati, Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco. They say the FBI cannot be held liable for the results of a separate state investigation.

Avery dismissed those claims, arguing that Boston FBI agents not only told state prosecutors about Barboza -- a key witness in the state's trial -- they also told prosecutors that they could vouch for Barboza's integrity.

"The notion that the FBI is not responsible for the initiation of this prosecution... is frivolous," Avery said.

He said the men were "acceptable collateral damage" in the Mob crackdown.

Salvati and Limone were exonerated in 2001 after FBI memos dating back to the Deegan case surfaced, showing the men were framed by Barboza.

The memos were made public after they were discovered by a Justice Department task force probing the FBI's relationship with gangsters and FBI informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.

Government lawyers were expected to start their closing arguments later Tuesday.

Judge Nancy Gertner will decide the jury-waived case.