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Case mounts against ex-FBI agent

Connolly allegedly tipped informants

By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff, 10/12/2000

The case against former FBI agent John J. Connolly reached a new level yesterday with additional charges that he leaked information to his prize informants, gangsters James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi, that led to the slayings of two FBI informants and a potential witness against the pair.

The added federal charges against the 60-year-old retired agent from Lynnfield mark the first time that Connolly has been accused of instigating murders and come just two weeks after Bulger and Flemmi were charged in a related federal case with killing 18 people between 1973 and 1985.

The new charges were added to a racketeering indictment brought against Connolly, Bulger, and Flemmi last December that accused the agent of protecting his informants by tipping them to investigations and warning them to flee to avoid prosecution in 1995. Bulger has been a fugitive ever since.

The new nine-count indictment alleges that Connolly, who retired from the FBI in December 1990, leaked confidential information to Bulger and Flemmi that provoked the 1976 slaying of Richard Castucci and the 1982 slayings of Brian Halloran and John Callahan.

Castucci and Halloran are identified as FBI informants in the indictment. Callahan is named as a potential witness against Bulger and Flemmi in the slayings of Halloran and a Tulsa millionaire.

US Attorney Donald K. Stern told reporters at an early evening news conference, "Today's indictment fills out a dark picture of corruption and obstruction of justice by a former FBI agent . . . The handler of criminals became one himself."

Connolly also faces several obstruction of justice charges resulting from hearings by US District Judge Mark L. Wolf, who is presiding over the 1995 racketeering case against Bulger and Flemmi and who held lengthy hearings exposing their relationship with the FBI.

Connolly is accused of writing a false, anonymous letter to Wolf on Boston police stationery in 1997 in an attempt to discredit a former Boston police detective and other investigators who had been targeting Bulger and Flemmi for years. Connolly is also accused of plotting with Flemmi to lie during the hearings.

Among the new charges is a claim that Connolly received a diamond ring from Bulger and Flemmi back in June 1976, a mere nine months after he first recruited Bulger as an FBI informant.

Charles Prouty, who recently took over as special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said, "The allegations are appalling to me and every other FBI agent. This is a bitter pill for all of them. Don't judge us by a couple of bad apples and rogue agents."

Connolly, who retired after a 22-year career as a highly decorated agent with a reputation for developing high-level informants, and his attorneys released a statement last night calling the new indictment "outrageous."

Tracy Miner, a lawyer representing Connolly, wrote, "This indictment is a further example of the outrageous actions of the government which has been working to conceal its own misconduct and distract attention from the way they have handled criminal investigations."

Miner blasted the government for cutting deals with two former Bulger associates and a disgraced FBI supervisor in building its case against Connolly.

Confessed hit man-turned government witness John Martorano and Bulger's former top deputy, Kevin Weeks, have helped the government solve dozens of unsolved murders and implicated Bulger and Flemmi in most of them.

Former FBI supervisor John Morris, testifying under a grant of immunity in 1998, admitted that he pocketed $7,000 in bribes from Bulger and Flemmi during the 1980s and contended Connolly served as the middleman - on two occasions delivering bribes in cases of expensive wine.

"They have relied on the testimony of a serial killer, a serial liar and a `wannabe' mobster in making their case," Miner said. "The government then asked you, the public, to believe that these new indictments are based on credible evidence."

The indictment alleges that Richard Castucci, 47, a Revere nightclub owner and bookie, was shot to death by Bulger and Flemmi on Dec. 29, 1976, after Connolly told them that Castucci was an FBI informant.

Connolly allegedly revealed to Bulger and Flemmi that Castucci had tipped the FBI that fugitives Joseph McDonald and James Sims, both members of Somerville's Winter Hill Gang, were hiding out in New York's Greenwich Village, the indictment says. Both Bulger and Flemmi were members of the gang and are accused of killing Castucci to prevent the capture of McDonald and Sims.

The indictment also alleges that Connolly warned Bulger and Flemmi in April 1982 that Halloran was cooperating with the FBI and had implicated them in the May 27, 1981 slaying of Roger Wheeler, who was shot to death outside a Tulsa country club.

Halloran had told the FBI that Wheeler, the chairman of Telex Corp. and owner of World Jai Alai, was killed because he suspected the Winter Hill Gang of skimming funds from his company. Halloran had implicated Bulger, Flemmi, and John Callahan, the former president of World Jai Alai, in Wheeler's murder.

The indictment alleges that Bulger and others gunned Halloran down as he sat in a car on South Boston's waterfront on May 11, 1982, to prevent him from cooperating further. Halloran's friend, Michael Donahue, was killed as he sat in the car next to him.

The indictment alleges that Bulger and Flemmi ordered the murder of Callahan, who was shot to death in Florida on Aug. 1, 1982, after learning from Connolly that Callahan was being sought as a witness before a federal grand jury investigating Wheeler's murder.

Robert George, who represents Michael Donahue's family, called the indictment a huge day.

"As far as the Donahue family is concerned, John Connolly, John Morris and the FBI loaded the guns that killed Michael," George said.

Roger Wheeler's son David, meanwhile, called the news of the new charges "wonderful."

"I love progress," he said. "I think he [Connolly] clearly helped protect my father's killers. He had so much power and he abused it. In my mind it caused the deaths of a number of people. I just hope this is not the end."

The indictment also charges Connolly with obstruction of justice for allegedly writing a letter to Judge Wolf on March 27, 1997, that purported to come from three unnamed Boston police officers and was written on police stationery.

The anonymous letter claimed that retired Boston Police Sergeant Detective Frank Dewan, the Massachusetts State Police, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the New England Organized Crime Strike Force had furnished or relied on false information to prosecute Bulger and Flemmi.

The indictment alleges that Connolly wrote the letter "in an effort to dupe Judge Wolf into crediting defense claims" and to assist Flemmi's defense.

Dewan, who worked on an investigation that led to the 1990 indictment of 51 members of a cocaine ring that allegedly paid tribute to Bulger, said, "I think he was trying to destroy my credibility. I'm thankful to the government for pursuing the investigation and finding out the real truth."

Assistant US Attorney John Durham, who has spearheaded the FBI investigation that led to the charges against Connolly, said the investigation into the FBI's handling of Bulger and Flemmi is expected to continue for several more months and additional charges are possible.

Bulger has been dropped from the case involving Connolly as he faces two other racketeering charges. Flemmi, who has been jailed without bail pending trial, now faces four separate federal indictments.

Connolly is expected to be arraigned on the new charges Oct. 19.

Connolly is now charged with two counts of racketeering, conspiracy to obstruct justice, four counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of making a false statement. Flemmi is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice.

Connolly is accused of lying to the FBI agents during a July 1997 interview by denying he was in contact with Flemmi's defense team. The indictment alleges Connolly spoke with Flemmi's defense team on several occasions between 1995 and 1997.

Globe correspondent Ralph Ranalli and Andy Dabilis of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 10/12/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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

Photo gallery
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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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