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Judge keeps charges in Mob case

Says FBI role doesn't preclude prosecution of Bulger, Flemmi

By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff, 9/16/1999

For decades, the FBI protected its prized informants, reputed South Boston crime boss James J. ``Whitey'' Bulger and Stephen ``The Rifleman'' Flemmi, by tipping them off to investigations and ignoring their crimes, but the two were never promised they would not be prosecuted, a federal judge concluded yesterday.

In a decision that threatened to derail a landmark racketeering case against the region's top organized-crime figures, US District Judge Mark L. Wolf refused to drop any charges against Flemmi, Bulger, reputed New England Mafia boss Francis P. ``Cadillac Frank'' Salemme, and two associates or to toss out a key piece of evidence -- a 1989 bugging of a Mafia induction ceremony in Medford.

One of those associates is Winter Hill gangster and confessed hit man John Martorano, who last week reached an agreement with prosecutors to testify against the others if the case goes to trial. But Wolf indicated in his decision that he may not let Martorano testify.

After 46 witnesses, 276 exhibits, and 80 days of testimony that stretched over most of last year, Wolf was unswayed by Flemmi's central claim: that he and Bulger had been promised immunity from prosecution for any crime short of murder in exchange for information they fed the FBI on Mafia rivals.

In a 2-inch thick, 661-page decision, Wolf concluded that while the FBI had broken its rules in handling Bulger and Flemmi, any agreement with the pair did not rise to the level of a formal deal preventing their prosecution.

While Wolf did not dismiss any charges, he barred federal prosecutors from using any evidence gathered against Bulger or Flemmi during a series of buggings in the 1980s because the two had given the FBI information that it used in applications for the bugs.

Still, any victory for prosecutors may be shortlived. Wolf said he plans to hold more hearings on whether information from four buggings was presented to the grand jury that handed down the racketeering indictment against Flemmi and the others in January 1995. If it was, Wolf said he may throw out some or all of the charges against Flemmi, 65.

``The bottom line is it's very good news for Mr. Flemmi,'' said his lawyer, Kenneth J. Fishman. ``I certainly will be urging the court that there really is no way for this indictment to survive as a result of the evidence that is being excluded against Mr. Flemmi.''

Salemme's lawyer, Anthony Cardinale, said he will ask Wolf next week to release Salemme on bail.

Cardinale said Salemme and reputed Mafia soldier Robert DeLuca had pushed Flemmi to reveal that he was an FBI informant.

``It was important for us, and certainly for my client, for the world to know that this wasn't sleuthing that was going on,'' Cardinale said. ``It was nothing but outright rat-snitching, and it was accomplished by a guy who professed to be one of [Salemme's] closest pals.''

US Attorney Donald K. Stern, whose office is prosecuting the case, issued a statement saying he was ``pleased'' that Wolf denied a request by defense attorneys to dismiss the indictment or suppress FBI tapes of the induction ceremony.

``Needless to say, I am disappointed that the court is requiring that further evidentiary hearings be held before it can make final rulings on Flemmi's motions,'' Stern said.

Both Stern and Barry Mawn, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said they are continuing to investigate allegations of FBI misconduct that surfaced during the hearings before Wolf last year and were chronicled in his decision.

Although Flemmi became an FBI informant in 1965, followed by Bulger a decade later, Wolf wrote that the FBI ``played a pivotal role in forging a formidable enduring partnership between Flemmi and Bulger. . . . The FBI made Bulger and Flemmi, who were previously acquainted but not close, a perfect match.''

Indeed, Flemmi has testified that he had stopped meeting with the FBI for a few years when Bulger arranged for him to meet his handler, Special Agent John Connolly, in 1976. At the time, both Flemmi and Bulger were reputed members of Somerville's Winter Hill Gang.

They became a team, allegedly shaking down bookmakers and drug dealers together, then rendezvousing with agents to provide information on the criminal exploits of their Mafia rivals.

``The arrangement offered [Flemmi] an opportunity to use the FBI to disable his enemies, enhance his safety, and with the competition diminished and the protection of the FBI, make his own criminal activities more profitable,'' Wolf wrote.

There was ample evidence that Bulger and Flemmi were protected over the years by many agents, said Wolf, citing the testimony of a parade of former FBI agents, prosecutors, and underworld operatives.

Wolf said he was unable to rely on FBI records found in the informant files of Bulger and Flemmi because there was ``substantial evidence that members of the FBI engaged in improper if not illegal conduct'' and had a motive to tailor, omit, or distort the records.

Therefore, Wolf said, he was drawing conclusions from some of the testimony. Among his stunning findings: he believes that Connolly, who retired in 1990, warned Bulger and Flemmi on the eve of their January 1995 indictment so they could flee.

Bulger left and remains a fugitive. He recently was named to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

Wolf said Flemmi's testimony that it was former FBI Supervisor John Morris who warned Bulger to flee just wasn't ``credible.''

In a statement read last night, Connolly said, ``I did not tip Bulger, Flemmi, or anyone else with respect to the indictment returned by the grand jury in 1995.''

While Connolly refused to testify at the hearings last year, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Morris was granted immunity from prosecution.

Morris admitted pocketing $7,000 in payoffs from Bulger and Flemmi and said Connolly had delivered two of the payments, each totaling $1,000. Connolly denies that.

Morris also admitted to tipping off Bulger and Flemmi to an FBI investigation of one of their associates, a Roxbury bookmaker, so they would not be caught.

Morris also claimed that he sent word to Bulger and Flemmi through Connolly that another Winter Hill Gang member, Brian Halloran, was cooperating with the FBI and had implicated them in the 1981 murder of Tulsa millionaire Roger Wheeler.

Halloran was murdered in 1982 and Morris said he suspected Bulger and Flemmi were involved in the slaying.

Connolly denies ever warning Bulger and Flemmi that Halloran was cooperating against them.

Wolf detailed numerous instances of FBI protection involving more than a half-dozen current and former agents. Wolf said it was the FBI's way of keeping on the street two informants who were providing critical information against the Mafia.

But Wolf said Flemmi had no expectation that he had immunity from prosecution, nor was the term immunity used in any conversations between him and FBI agents.

``Rather, he expected that the FBI would overlook some of his criminal activity, provide him information concerning any investigations that were conducted, and warn him of any imminent charges against him of which it learned,'' Wolf wrote. ``The FBI performed its part of the bargain.''

Wolf concluded that Flemmi and Bulger had been promised that information they gave the FBI so it could get court approval to install listening devices in Mafia hangouts would not be used against them.

In particular, Wolf ruled that prosecutors were barred from using any evidence gathered from the following ``bugs'' to obtain the 1995 racketeering indictment against Bulger and Flemmi:

-- The 1981 bugging of the North End headquarters of Patriarca family underboss Gennaro ``Jerry'' Angiulo.

-- A 1984-85 bugging by the FBI and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

-- The 1986-1987 bugging of Vanessa's Italian Food Shop in the Prudential Center by the FBI and State Police.

-- The infamous Mafia induction ceremony on Oct. 29, 1989.

Wolf said Flemmi had been ``expressly and implicitly promised'' that in exchange for his help on the Angiulo bugging that led to the convictions of the Boston mob hierarchy, none of the interceptions would be used against him.

When the FBI enlisted Bulger and Flemmi to visit Angiulo's headquarters on Prince Street, Bulger voiced concern that they might be killed and both informants worried that the FBI might learn about wrongdoing by Bulger and Flemmi.

Those tapes reveal bragging by Angiulo's consigliere, Ilario Zannino, about the murders of three Dorchester brothers and how Salemme and Flemmi had participated in them. The current racketeering indictment charges Salemme and Flemmi with those murders.

Flemmi was among a group of informants who gave the FBI details that led to the bugging of 34 Guild St. in Medford in 1989, when four aspiring mobsters -- including his codefendant DeLuca -- took a blood oath to join the Patriarca crime family.

Wolf also said the FBI ``recklessly disregarded the government's legal obligation of candor to the court'' when applying, along with the DEA, to bug Bulger's car and Quincy apartment in 1984 and 1985 and failing to disclose he was an informant.


The FBI judged

Judge Mark L. Wolf on the FBI and its dealings with its top informants, James ``Whitey'' Bulger and Stephen Flemmi:

``The FBI was not misled, however, with regard to the nature of Flemmi and Bulger's crimes, including the fact that they were likely murderers.''

``Blinded by its determination not to confirm for the United States Attorney's Office or the DEA the accuracy of their understanding that Bulger and Flemmi were FBI informants, the FBI recklessly disregarded the government's legal obligation of candor to the court when applying for authority to conduct electronic surveillance.''

``The conduct of many other members of the FBI, including at least three [assistant special agents in charge] and the chief of the Organized Crime Section at FBI headquarters, contributed to creating, communicating, and performing the promise of protection to Flemmi.''

``(FBI agents dined with Bulger and Flemmi, and) the timing of these dinners suggests that they were often arranged to celebrate milestones in the FBI's relationship with Bulger and Flemmi.''

``The evidence in this case raises questions concerning whether the FBI has consistently made its best efforts to apprehend Bulger.''

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 09/16/1999.
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

Whitey Bulger
Stephen Flemmi
Frank Salemme
Kevin Weeks
John Martorano
John Connolly
John Morris

Photo gallery
Whitey sightings
Books on Whitey
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1 9 8 8
The Bulger mystique
A look at Boston's famous brothers, William and Whitey.

1 9 9 5
The story of Whitey's fall
How investigators brought down the elusive criminal.

1 9 9 8
Whitey & the FBI
The relationship between Bulger and Boston's law men.

1 9 9 8
Whitey's life on the run
The fugitive mobster's relentless travels across the country.

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