FBI Agent John Connolly: The Hidden Facts

Yesterday I wrote about former FBI Agent John Connolly. I did that because while working on my book Boston Bamboozled I keep thinking about him still in jail since 2002 when all the murderers who cooperated with the federal government, even some of their friends who they implicated in the murders, are walking the street.

Part of the bamboozlement of Boston is the idea that John Connolly was this deeply corrupt FBI agent who was responsible for some great crimes including murder. Whenever the Boston media refers to him it calls him the “corrupt former FBI agent” sometimes adding the adjective “disgraced.” What is important to keep in mind is the hyperbole in the media which continually alleges that Connolly covered up Whitey’s murders.

The first thing to keep in mind is that there was no evidence that John Connolly knew of any of the murders Whitey committed prior to the time he retired from the FBI. Connolly retired from the FBI in 1990. It’s fair to say that if any in Boston knew of them it was only his confederates. No one in the media even hinted in 1990 that Whitey had murdered anyone.

The information about some of the murders did not become public until 1997 when Stevie Flemmi testified, and about others until later when John Martorano made a deal with the federal prosecutors and threw Whitey into some of his murders (hits) which he did for Gerry Angiulo, the underboss of the New England Mafia who rewarded Martorano and his co-murderer Howie Winter with money and gratitude. By the time Stevie and John testified, Whitey was in parts unknown having fled Boston in late December 1994.

How is it then that Connolly is supposed to have known about any of the murders? Back prior to 2002 he was indicted under a racketeering charge for having been involved in some of them by tipping of the murderers that the people were informants. He went to trial on those charges in the federal court in Boston. My book, Don’t Embarrass The Family, tells about that trial and the evidence. The main witness against him on those murders, John Martorano and Kevin Weeks, were not believed by the jury. Connolly was acquitted of having any involvement in them. Did you know that?

He was convicted of some obstruction of justice charges and of giving to a truly corrupt FBI agent John Morris some money and a case of wine. But on the murders he walked. Or, as the street has it when someone is found not involved, “he beat the rap.”

Even though the main charges did not result in a conviction, the judge threw the book at Connolly. You see Connolly had become what I’ve called a POOF, that is a person out of favor. When you reach that state then nothing that is done to you is beyond the pale. No one questioned the sentence of a retired FBI agent to 12 years in prison. As noted the loose writing in the media turned his offense into that of condoning and covering up the rampage of a murderer.

But there was something which would give the charge that he abetted Whitey’s murders some legs. Against all precedent, he was then charged in Florida with the same thing he was found not responsible for in Boston. The same prosecutor and investigators who were behind the Boston case went to Florida using most of the same evidence. There Connolly was convicted of being involved in the murder of John Callahan. I’ve spoken before how I think the conviction was faulty. So I’ll pass on that at this time.

We have in the U.S. the idea of dual sovereignties. We created the fiction that one criminal act under some circumstances can be a crime against the United States and a state. This is a way to avoid the Constitutional protection against being tried twice for the same crime. As I’ve often noted, the law is what the judges say it is so even though a person is tried twice for the same crime, as long as one courtroom is in a federal courthouse and the other a state courthouse, in the case of a POOF, then every nods and smiles and comes up with the fiction that the Constitution has not been violated.

What we have in Connolly’s case is one jury saying Connolly abetted in the plans to kill Callahan and another saying he didn’t.  Perhaps we need another trial in the World Court. But while we wait, the guy is going to die in prison after doing the job J. Edgar Hoover wanted him to do.

In my book I’ll get into the issue that most people want to ignore: the Top Echelon Informant program. Connolly’s duties as an FBI agent was to recruit and run these informants who were known to be involved in criminal activity and connected to the highest level of organized crime. Let me ask you this, if the FBI expected Connolly to get informants at this level and expected they would give him information in return, what did the FBI expect the informants to want?

Think about the quid pro quo for a top gangster to inform on his buddies. It certainly wasn’t a hardly handshake.

25 thoughts on “FBI Agent John Connolly: The Hidden Facts

  1. Matt, great analyses across the board: I’d like to emphasize one point: You are correct: John Connolly did say that if he knew Bulger or anyone else committed a murder, he would have arrested them. The fact is no one in the press and no one in law enforcement connected Bulger with any murders prior to Flemmi’s and Martorano’s admissions in the late 1990s. John retired from the FBI in 1990. No newspaperman, no state cop, no local cop, no DA had linked Bulger with murders by that time. 2. John Connolly has steadfastly maintained his innocence of any involvement in any murders. In contrast, his boss, John Morris, has admitted he leaked information intending people (e.g., Whitey Bulger, e.g.) be killed. But even the admittedly corrupt FBI agent John Morris (Connolly’s supervisor) stated that he repeatedly told his informants that they could continue their criminal activity (bookmaking, drugs, etc.) but “No violence.” When Flemmi asked Morris what he meant by “no violence” Morris supposedly replied “No murders”, according to Flemmi. 3. Ask Howie Carr how many articles he wrote prior to 1990 or prior to 1995 linking Whitey Bulger with murder. The correct answer zero.

  2. Dear author, So good to see you still working away. Looking forward to your book. Only one question. As far as the media goes regarding Whitey not being written about murdering anyone up until 1990? I have read so much over the years I forget where and when I read this. Someone in law enforcement stating that they thought Whitey had done maybe 50 murders. I bring that up because how can someone rise up in crime to the top of any major city without killing anyone? Did John pull any triggers , maybe not. But his behavior seemed to keep Whitey out of other law enforcement grasp and while he may not be Kevin Weeks he is no babe in the woods either. Any thought on Johnny Depp? I have seen some pictures, looks like him. Regards,

    1. Norwood:

      Whitey definitely killed some of the people he was charged with killing like the McGonagles and Buddy Leonard. My point is that the only people who knew about this were the guys that helped him – maybe a handful of others. The way the media has played this after the fact is that it is common knowledge among everyone that Whitey was murdering people. The Globe did a profile of Billy and Whitey in 1988 and nothing about him being other than a hoodlum was mentioned. Remember Kevin Weeks said Whitey taught him the idea behind committing a crime in not to be caught. Whitey was not advertising that he murdered people so until Martorano opened up in 1998 and Flemmi in 1997 – Whitey although he had committed many murders was not known to have done this.

      John’s job as an FBI agent was to recruit guys like Whitey and Stevie. When he did he’d write them up and send it to headquarters where they would be approved as top echelon informants. Once that was done John’s job for the FBI was to protect them so that they could give him information. He did keep Whitey safe but during the time John was on the FBI – he left in 1990 – no one was looking for Whitey as having been involved in murders.

      We tend to say how could John have not known he murdered people; the answer is simply that Whitey could gain nothing by letting him know he murdered anyone so he wouldn’t tell him. If Whitey did not convey this information to John, how was John to learn it. Weeks was with Whitey when he murdered people; no one has ever put John anywhere need a murder scene. When asked what he would have done if he learned Whitey murdered someone, John said he would have locked him up.
      As for Johnny Depp, I did see a photograph of him and he looked like Whitey. I’m not sure how accurate the movie will be because the real story behind this whole situation has yet to be told.

      1. Until the appeal is filed and dealt with, I can’t understand how a definitive movie can be made. I am surprised that Johnny Depp, a personal favorite, decided to go forward?

        1. Jean:

          Movies are make believe. You can do them anytime you want. Money is the motivating factor for the producers and you best friend Johnny Depp.

          1. Matt, I agree that anticipation of buckets of money drives movie making, but it is also a money risk to jump the gun…and I must correct your misapprehension. I should have said Johnny Depp is a personal favorite of mine as an actor. I personally don’t know the man. So no BFF. Just keeping the record straight. 🙂

  3. Wyshak, a Bradley Headstone clone, asked Young J for special treatment for Mrs. Tierney because” she was a Congressman’s wife”. He justified his lenient request based on her political connections. Was it a coincidence that Congress funds the DOJ for whom he works? Shouldn’t Young ask Wyshak to distinguish his favorable treatment of one connected to his jobs funding source( Congress) and the conduct of Probation favoring the Legislature’s preferences?Tthe conduct seems to be identical.

  4. If you mean no one in the media questioned the sentence you are correct. Many others did. But any fair analysis of Tauro’s sentence shows it to be absurd. If he were an honest judge the term would have been a year at most. Martha Stewart got 90 days for lying to the FBI. Tierney’s wife got 30 days for laundering $ eight mil. Connolly’s offenses were minor. Tauro had an agenda against him. Tauro was a close friend of Bellotti and this was payback for Bulger getting Silber the Gov’s nomination and other insults. Connolly’s crime was he was friendly with Bill Bulger. The Feds couldn’t get BB so they punished a friend. If Tauro gave him an appropriate sentence Connolly would have finished his Florida term by now. Irrespective of the immense corruption in Fla. he would be free. The Feds in Boston were just dancing to the Mafia’s tune. All LCN hitmen are freed and the top cops against them are framed ( Rico and Connolly). Connolly’s difficulty was he never encountered a fair and honest prosecutor or judge. No one expects the press to be honest. They have no ethics. They are just a business trying to maximize their return.” Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” Just ask the Duke Lacrosse players. But judges and prosecutors can’t be uniformly dishonest if a free society is to last.

    1. NC:

      Good points all. In Sicily they say revenge is best served cold; that appears to be the case with Rico and Connolly – they hurt the Mafia so they were hurt in return; but it was done in the best manner possible, they were done in legally by the people who were supposed to be on their side.

  5. The quid pro quo was the serving up of the Angiulo Organization to the FBI. It was a feat engineered by TEI Program Informant since the sixties Flemmi ; who was as cosy as a shithouse rat with the Prince St. bunch and had the vetted Italian bloodline that gave him access James Bulger would never have had. Connolly got screwed for capably, spectacularly really, handling his pet Italian Mafia prodigy since the sixties, Steven Flemmi. Flemmi gave him Frank Salemme Sr. and made John Connolly an FBI Star way back in the day. No mystery, no hearty handshakes or Jimmy Bulger as a scapegoat in the ” Informant ” Boston Field Office ” Rotor ” create a back story game … just Steven Flemmi … being … Steven Flemmi .

    1. John:

      True – Whitey had much less access to the Angiulos than Stevie; the Lancaster Street garage times showed there was a closer relationship than one would expect but the Italians always depended on Stevie who had Whitey as a partner so they tolerated Whitey – remember Howie Winter and John Martorano were hit men for Angiulo when Indian Joe tried to set up his own rackets. It seems Winter Hill and the Boston Mafia worked closely at time.
      Of course Stevie is the most vile so even though the North End trusted him he was not a trustworthy guy. He had little concern for anyone but himself.
      The Angiulos went down being done in by O’Sullivan’s wiretap; Whitey and Stevie play a very minor role in it; the big player in it was John Morris’s informant from Chelsea who met regularly with the Angiulos on Prince Street. He was called Mr. X but people said he was Berkowitz who ran Chelsea quite openly with FBI protection.
      Here’s the mystery – we know Whitey and Stevie were getting protection from Connolly – that’s what FBI handlers are supposed to do for their informants – keep them safe. What was it that Connolly was getting from Whitey and Stevie at that time? Down the road Stevie helpe with Vanessa’s and putting the bug in the Mafia induction ceremony but back in 1981 it’s hard to see Connolly benefiting from them other than getting intelligence, but that in itself is sometimes worth its weight in gold.

      1. Hey Matt, I was trying to find out for a good while who MR. X was? Berkowitz you say? I have been picking apart The Dog house tapes for a long time and never could identify who X was.

        1. Doubting:

          At the trial I went up to a cop I knew during a break in Morris’s testimony when they were using the name Mr. X and asked him who it was. He told me it was Berkowitz. Morris testified the Mr. X was his only top echelon informant. Morris also told of the goodies Mr. X gave him – a loan of $5000, use of his condo in Florida,
          Sam Berkowitz appears to have been Morris’s informant for 25 years from the mid-Seventies. He was on the witness list in Whitey’s trial showing that the lived in Royal Palm Beach Florida where Morris said he would use his condd.
          When the wiretap on Gerry Angiulo was done in 1981 Morris was in charge of it. Most of the information for the wiretap at the Dog House was given to Morris by Berkowitz who was a regular visitor there. Whitey and Stevie played hardly any role in it since the affidavit had been completed prior to their information being inserted. Morris told the agent who was had written it to do it again to include them. That was probably because it gave his informant better coverage. Berkowitz got a pardon in 1984 by President Reagan. There can be little doubt the FBI played a role in getting it for him by telling of his role in bringing down the Angiulos and according to a Globe article no one ever checked with the state police or Chelsea police to check into it.
          He was arrested in 1992 on federal gambling charges when he was 66 years old. He was convicted but sentenced to six months home confinement with a little help from someone. Some people say he’s dead, but guess he’s still kicking around. There’s a Samuel Berkowitz, age 87, in West Palm Beach Florida who probably is him. He and Morris who lives in Florida may be having a good laugh at the sting they pulled on everyone up here.

          1. Matt- Gerry anguilo was a combat navy veteran you are correct, maybe he made his bones after all in war! Just finished your first book and will be anxious for your current book. Good Luck with all!!

            1. Doubting:

              Thanks for taking the time to read the book I can’t say I knew Gerry since he was a client of the small law firm I worked in but I saw him often enough. We’d nod at each other, he never smiled but looked mean as hell. As for making his bones, who knows about that but in my little interaction with him if asked I’d have to guess doing it would have given him no trouble

  6. Matt, I am trying to understand your posits, but I have a sticking point. If FBI Agent Connolly was as removed as you claim then how did former FBI John Connolly become so involved with John Iuele, whom I have reason to believe was an alias used by James Bulger? In my personal meeting with Mr. Connolly he said he had been referred by John Iuele. At this period of time Mr. Connolly was employed by Boston Edison.

    1. Agent Connolly is taking the fall for getting close to Bulger, which is exactly what is necessary to truly work an informant.

      1. Andrew, I take your point about a handler and his informant. But, my experience happened after he retired. Why would he still be working as a handler? In fact he introduced himself as a co worker of Jogn Iuele aka Whitey Bulger.

      2. Andrew:

        Exactly right. You cannot handle and informant unless to get close to her; but keep in mind Connolly’s closeness is what the FBI wanted. That is what the Top Echelon Informant program is about. The FBI and Connolly wanted something from Bulger and Bulger wanted something from the FBI and Connolly – that’s how it started. They did become close over time but that was not something that was a secret.

    2. Jean:
      You ask a good question. My main thrust on the Connolly issue is not that Connolly is innocent of everything but whatever he did that I am aware of does not require him to die in prison. I think that the 12 years he has served is more than enough for what I believe his acts might have been. I don’t believe the matter in Florida was a proper prosecution as I’ve explained before.

      1. Matt, I have always agreed with you on the sentencing issue. My frustration comes from the fact that Mr. Connolly, when he had the chance, did not help himself. There must have been a reason. He knew the sentence he was facing yet he himself did nothing to mitigate it…it appears there was a larger issue that both sides were protecting, Mr. Connolly with his life.

        1. Jean:

          I think Connolly made a mistake in not testifying. Why he didn’t escapes me. But you know I have written about John Naimovich who was acquitted. He did not testify. I know why because he would have been made to look like a criminal on the stand. Not that he did anything criminal, but the tactics of the federal prosecutors is to show that he did things that made him look bad. For instance, Naimovich was a hard worker but he sometimes would not show up for work at 7:30. The prosecutors would show over and over again that he signed the time sheet showing him in at 7:30 when he was somewhere else at the time doing some personal stuff. This has nothing to do with the crime charged but it can make a person look bad when the records show one thing and the facts are otherwise. So with little things we all do that are not 100% right although not criminal a prosecutor can make us look evil.
          I’m sure Connolly knew there were things like that in the prosecutors bag of tricks. He had to weigh having to explain why he said he was working when he might have been swimming at the Cape and things like that. In adding up the totality of things, he figured, and I’m only assuming this, that it was better to sit silently rather than look like someone who did things not always on the level even though not criminal.
          There’s also the thing that as a witness you can come across in the wrong way. As I said, I think he made a mistake not testifying but I don’t know why he didn’t. So I do share your frustrations even though I understand the perils of being a witness when the other side has all your work and expense records. Knowing the little I do about Connolly, I’m sure there were days he was lounging in the sun at L Street in Southie when he was supposed to be driving around in his suit.

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