Flemmi ties Connolly to 2 slayings

Gangster admits to 10 murders in a plea deal

By Shelley Murphy
Globe Staff / October 15, 2003
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The jury got it wrong when it acquitted former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. of leaking information that prompted his longtime informants, James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, to kill two men, according to court documents unsealed yesterday.

Flemmi, who pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to 10 murders, has alleged that Connolly instigated two of those slayings by warning Bulger that one of the victims, Richard Castucci, was an FBI informant, and that the other, John Callahan, was being sought by the FBI as a potential witness against Bulger and Flemmi, according to a detailed account of the crimes signed by Flemmi and filed with the court.

It was unclear, though, whether Connolly could be charged again in either slaying.

In May, a federal jury found that prosecutors failed to prove Connolly leaked information that prompted Bulger and Flemmi to kill Castucci and Callahan. Jurors convicted Connolly, 63, of racketeering and obstruction of justice, and he is serving 10 years in prison.

While the plea agreement and documents unsealed yesterday provided a glimpse of what Flemmi can offer, prosecutors have yet to disclose the full extent of what the gangster has told them. Flemmi, however, has implicated some of his other associates in murders.

Flemmi pleaded guilty to murder, drug trafficking, racketeering, and extortion and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. In exchange, the government recommended a life prison term.

Flemmi also will plead guilty to murders in Florida and Oklahoma, where prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

US District Judge Richard G. Stearns has scheduled sentencing for Jan. 27. Flemmi's deal with prosecutors calls for him to spend the rest of his life in federal prison. He will stay in a secure unit reserved for cooperating inmates.

During a press conference yesterday after the hearing, held before a courtroom packed with victims' relatives, federal and state law enforcement officials vowed to investigate all allegations made by Flemmi.

Flemmi's cooperation led to the arrest last week of retired FBI agent H. Paul Rico, 78, who is charged with plotting with Bulger and Flemmi to kill Roger Wheeler, a Tulsa businessman who owned World Jai Alai, a parimutuel wagering company with frontons in Miami and Connecticut.

"Every time you close one door, four or five open up," said State Police Colonel Thomas Foley, who launched the investigation of Bulger and Flemmi that exposed their relationship with the FBI and solved dozens of murders. "This is a case that never ends."

Foley suggested that more indictments are likely. "People on the fringes who haven't been touched will still be brought to justice," he said.

US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said investigators will continue to question Flemmi and investigate his allegations. The case, he said, "demonstrates the disastrous harm" that results when organized crime groups corrupt law enforcement officials.

When asked about allegations raised at Connolly's trial in May that Bulger and Flemmi routinely made cash payments to some 20 Boston police officers, Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans said he was "very interested" in what Flemmi has to say about wrongdoing by officers. "If there are individuals out there now who are going to have sleepless nights, that's terrific," he said.

It was also disclosed yesterday that the government has agreed to recommend a reduced sentence for Flemmi's brother, Michael, a retired Boston police officer, if he cooperates with investigators. Michael Flemmi was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year for moving an arsenal of high-powered weapons for his gangster brother.

Page Kelley, a public defender representing Stephen Flemmi, said her client's concern for his brother prompted him to start negotiating a deal with prosecutors several weeks ago.

"There was always this question: Could he do something for his brother," said Kelley, who added that Stephen Flemmi has also been in failing health, although the ailment was unclear. He was pale yesterday and considerably thinner than when he was arrested in January 1995.

Yesterday, Stephen Flemmi sat impassive, occasionally glancing at his tearful daughter, as he listened to a federal prosecutor describe how he had brutally murdered 10 people, including one of his girlfriends and the daughter of another longtime, live-in girlfriend.

According to Flemmi's account of the crimes, read in court yesterday, he pulled the teeth from some of his dead victims to make it harder for authorities to identify them.

"I'd like to express my deepest apologies to the victims, their families, my family, the public at large, and the court," said Flemmi, 69, who has been jailed since his arrest in January 1995 in a related case. "I truly am sorry. I hope they forgive me."

But there was no forgiveness among the dozens of sons, daughters, and mothers of those whom Flemmi killed in the 1970s and 1980s, when he and Bulger were serving as FBI informants while running a criminal organization that controlled gambling, drug trafficking, and loan-sharking throughout Greater Boston and rivaled the local Mafia.

Steven Davis screamed at Flemmi as Assistant US Attorney Fred M. Wyshak Jr. recounted the cold-blooded murder of Davis's 26-year-old sister, Debra, who had been Flemmi's longtime girlfriend. Steven Davis was escorted out of court after reeling off a series of obscenities. In September 1981, Davis was lured to Flemmi's mother's home in South Boston, and "Bulger was waiting there and strangled her to death," Wyshak said. He said Bulger and Flemmi buried Debra Davis along the banks of the Neponset River in Quincy, where her remains were discovered three years ago by investigators from the State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The remains of another Flemmi victim, Thomas King, were found around the same time in a nearby grave. Prosecutors say Bulger and Flemmi murdered King, a fellow member of the Winter Hill gang, in November 1975 after telling other gang members that King planned to kill Boston Detective Edward Walsh, a distant cousin of Connolly's.

Chris McIntyre, the brother of John McIntyre, who was killed by Flemmi and others in November 1984, said he was insulted by Flemmi's apology.

"The only consolation is that he's dead, too," he said of Flemmi. "He just doesn't know it."

"He's got no feelings," said Michelle Davis, the sister of Debra Davis. "He feels no remorse at all . . . all these charges, pulling teeth out of people's heads like he's a dentist. . . . I'm just shocked."

Flemmi alleges it was Connolly who warned him and Bulger that Castucci, a Revere nightclub owner, was an FBI informant who had told the bureau where two Winter Hill gang fugitives were hiding out in New York. In December 1976, John Martorano, a former gang member, shot Castucci. Flemmi and Bulger later disposed of the body.

Flemmi also alleges that Connolly warned Bulger in 1982 that Callahan was being sought by the FBI for questioning about his role as an intermediary in Wheeler's murder and that he probably would cooperate. As a result, Flemmi said, he and Bulger ordered the murder of Callahan, a Winchester financier with strong underworld ties.

Boston lawyer Tracy Miner, who represents Connolly, said it would be difficult for prosecutors to charge Connolly again with playing a role in the murders of Callahan and Castucci, and he insisted that Flemmi is lying.

"I have no doubt that Flemmi would say anything he needed to save his life," Miner said.

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