I suppose we should start off with the basic truth about gangsters which is “they lie almost all the time.” Even though we can say that and be correct there is a way to know if one is lying. But before I get to that I am always intrigued by the interactions between a prosecutor and a gangster who he or she will use to testify.
How does the prosecutor tell if the gangster is lying? After all, as a representative of a sovereign power that is the first duty. Sometimes there is corroborating evidence; other times especially with crimes committed years earlier there is none. Prosecutors have to rely solely on the word of a criminal who lies. How do the prosecutor decide what part of the gangsters lie to believe? Then how does a judge or jury decide? Is it merely a guessing game. Should people go to jail on a guess?
My favorite example of this is when Judge Mark Wolf made his findings in the original case where Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi were disclosed as FBI informants. Flemmi was asserting that he had been given immunity for his crimes by the FBI. He testified before Wolf. He testified that a State Police electronic interception on the Lancaster Street garage where he and Bulger did business was compromised by AUSA O’Sulllivan; he testifies he had an informant on the State Police named Naimovich.
Judge Wolf who worked and was friends with O’Sullivan disbelieved him about O’Sullivan; Judge Wolf thinking Naimovich was convicted believed Flemmi as to Naimovich. He was wrong on both counts. It was O’Sullivan who leaked the State Police electronic interception and it was Dick Schneiderhan, not Naimovich who was Flemmi’s informant. Further, rather than being convicted, Naimovich had been acquitted.
Flemmi bold as brass had no problem lying in front of Wolf when he saw fit. Wolf with his many years sitting as a judge could not tell when he was lying. How are jurors expected to tell? Wouldn’t it be much better for our system of justice that gangsters not be allowed to testify without there being independent solid corroborative evidence?
There is though one way to tell if a gangster is lying without much more. It is to examine the public knowledge of the events as they happened and listen to what the gangster’s story is relative to what happened. If the gangster was involved in the happening but wants to remove himself from it he will tell of the event by giving facts that are totally wrong. The gangster expects the person he is talking too will think: “he could not have been there he has the facts all wrong.”
Take Pat Nee for example. He’s the guy who was never prosecuted by the federal prosecutors even though he was in an around most of the murders attributed to Whitey Bulger committed in South Boston. He told how Billy O’Sullivan got murdered by putting it on Paulie McGonagle who was dead at the time he told the story. He told how Paulie waited in the dark by himself until Billy came home, confronted him and shot him. The many eye witnesses to the event had three or four guys chasing Billy up the street and shooting him when he tripped over a sewer cover. Why was Nee’s story so fabricated? Was it to remove any suspicion from him?
He also tells the story of the murder of Donald Killeen who was shot down outside his house at 9:00 in the evening. He has a couple of guys, then dead, shooting him in the morning. Again, facts that are easily obtainable he distorts hoping by that to get the finger of guilt pointed away from him.
We must keep in mind gangsters survive by lying. No one has the ability without solid corroboration to know when they are lying or not. Their stories will always point themselves in the best light by pretending they do not know basic facts of the crime or putting the gun in someone else’s hands. The courts should have a much higher standard before allowing gangsters to testify.