Florida Justice: The Lengthy Imprisonment of Innocent People

At this point in time, a man who has been wrongfully convicted lingers in a Florida prison. To be frank, no one seems to care. That’s Florida justice for you. It may be the Sunshine State but there’s little sunshine for those caught up in its criminal system.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a cheerleader for this person. Some want to light candles to him, not me. To be truthful I have mixed feelings toward him none of which are complementary.

It’s a relatively easy story to understand how he ended up in his nether world of being still locked up. He was an FBI agent who worked in the FBI’s Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program. His job was to find criminals highly connected with top gangsters and wine and dine them so that they would give him information the FBI could use against the big bad guys.

He ended up cuddling up to two of the worst criminals; there were others equally bad, but he brought these two particularly vile ones, Stephen Flemmi and Whitey Bulger, into the FBI’s program. For fifteen years as an FBI agent he worked them taking information from them and protecting them from others in law enforcement. He was doing the job the FBI wanted him to do. From my point of view what he was doing was wrong even though sanctioned by the FBI.

Here’s what happened. It’s an easy story to follow. John Martorano a vicious evil man who had murdered over a dozen people before he fled Boston to hide out in Florida from federal charges had a friend John Callahan. Callahan wanted to take over a business in Florida called World Jai Alai. Callahan believed if he killed the owner Roger Wheeler that Wheeler’s widow would want out of the business and sell it to him.

Callahan gave Martorano $50,000 to murder Wheeler. Martorano got another of his ilk, Joe McDonald to help him with the murder. After Wheeler was gunned down by Martorano, the widow told Callahan to get lost.

The murder took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Its police and the local FBI began to investigate it. Their investigation took them to Boston and eventually started to focus on Callahan. Martorano knew there was only one person who could jam him in on the murder and that was Callahan. He asked Callahan to come to Florida where he was hiding out – they were buddies – and he and McDonald murdered him.

Years later Flemmi turned state’s evidence. He knew about many of the murders Martorano had committed in Boston which caused Martorano to panic. Matorano made a deal with the US prosecutors to testify against others in exchange for doing 12 years for 20 murders. To get the deal he had to come up with something big. So he said the FBI agent who was handling Flemmi told Flemmi that Callahan was being targeted by the FBI and he wouldn’t stand up. Needing to give the prosecutors a big present, he threw the FBI agent in to make his deal more palatable. Later, Flemmi fearing the death penalty, made a deal for himself and he corroborated what Martorano said.

The FBI agent was charged by the Boston prosecutors with leaking that information to Martorano in a Boston trial. The jury found it was not proven. These same prosecutors being righteous and vengeful crusaders desperately trying to justify their horrendous deal with Martorano arranged for Florida to charge the FBI agent for the murder of Callahan. He was tried and acquitted of first degree murder and conspiracy to murder but convicted of second degree murder by a gun. He appealed.

It was six years before the Appeals Court issued a decision on his appeal. It said his conviction was in error. There was no evidence he had a gun during the murder. It was not only that, he was in Massachusetts at the time of the murder and had never spoken to either of the murderers. One judge dissented saying he was an FBI agent who carried a gun and at some point months earlier during the planning of the murder he wore that gun.

The whole thing is quite preposterous when you come down to it. A couple of gangsters getting great deals from the US Government without anything more than their words are able to tie an FBI agent into their murderous crime.

It was in May that the FBI agent’s conviction was overturned.  Five months later he languishes in prison. Not admitted to bail he sits and rots as he enters his mid-70s. The prosecutor has filed for a rehearing. The Appeals Court is leisurely considering the request. If it grants it he’ll be in prison at least two more years.

And then there may be another appeal. The judges seem not to care. The public is indifferent. Those in charge of the FBI do care. They want him to stay in prison and die to protect their TEI program. For all we know they may very likely be influencing the Florida court’s turtle-like approach.

The FBI agent may end up doing eight or ten-year or even more years in prison even though he was wrongfully committed. Perhaps he will die there. Some call this justice. I call it an abomination.

7 replies on “Florida Justice: The Lengthy Imprisonment of Innocent People”

  1. Matt are you saying Bulger and Flemmi never ordered the Wheeler hit? Was Martirano acting only with Callahan? In my mind the Wheeler hit was the equivalent to Hitler declaring war on USSR n US during WW2. Both he and Winter Hill had forged formidable empires but didn’t know when to stop and it ultimately led to Their downfall

    1. Dave:
      First, prior to the Wheeler hit there was no connection between World Jai Alai and Winter Hill. The connection first came about because Callahan was interested in buying the business. He was friendly with Martorano and proposed to Martorano the hit on Wheeler. Whitey and Stevie were not involved in that at all. There was no need for them to be. Martorano had McDonal living near him in Florida and they were promised 50,000 to do it. What did these two top evil gangsters need others for? Whitey and Stevie had no idea who Wheeler was or any dealings with him or World Jai Alai so why are they ordering a hit. Things have to make sense; the only way Martorano could get a break on killing Wheeler was to implicate them.

  2. Matt : BINGO !!! Personalities aside it is the shanghaing of the Justice System and the obscene flouting of its rules, procedures, duly delivered verdicts and the Constitutional rights and guarantees that proceed forthwith that is the issue. Connolly’s continued imprisonment at this stage is a giant middle finger raised to what is now clearly a cowed American populace.

  3. Most insightful post. Evil forces at work against him. Connolly was obviously framed by criminal elements in the DOJ, Federal Judiciary and Florida. Where is the US Supreme Court on this? How can they tolerate this illegality? If the State of Alabama put a thousand Black civil rights demonstrators in jail and then took six years to decide whether they were held lawfully would the Federal Courts just stand by ? It would be impossible for a State to delay Justice for more than a year. They can’t have an indefinite period to decide. Bill is correct. The remedy is to get into Federal Court. Who knows there may be an honest judge to be found. Making a citizen wait six years for an appellate ruling is clearly a violation of his Due Process Rights under our Constitution. Every judge on the Florida Supreme Court and Appeals Court should be held accountable for this illegal behavior. One thing is clear there is no justice or decency in this Justice Department. It is all politics. It is a stain on America.

    1. NC:

      They should have been in federal court years ago. The Supremacy Clause and the Double Jeopardy Arguments were never heard. As for looking for a judge who would handle the case, if it went to federal court you would have had the same forces that have worked on the Florida court coming down on that judge. By the way, saying “Bill is correct” doesn’t mean he is.

  4. I call it an abomination, too, and I know hundreds of friends of John Connolly who understand the FEDs and the Globe’s abysmal role in slandering John Connolly’s reputation. John’s hundreds of lifelong friends and associates still believe in his innocence. The Miami Innocent Project of the Miami Law School defends John on appeal and MIP only takes a case if they believe the person charges is 100% innocent of the charges. In other words, they say the case was rigged against John. Chester Darling long ago wondered why Connolly’s lawyers weren’t in Federal Court on a Habeas Petition. The trial judge in Miami, as Chester pointed out several years ago, failed to properly instruct the jury on the law of the case. First and foremost, the statute of limitations had run on the Murder by Gun charge and when the FEDs-Wyshak (lead prosecutor in Miami) tried to say the Enhancement Statute changed the SOL, Chester and others figuratively laughed in his face. The Enhancement Statute specifically excluded “murder by gun” and any other crime the essential element of which was carrying a gun, moreover enhancement exempted law enforcement personnel from its provisions and also the Enhancement statute made clear that at the time of the crime the accused had to be within arms’ reach of the murder weapon. And as you said, the case law in Florida repeatedly said that for a murder by gun charge you had to have the weapon in your hand or be present at the crime scene when the murder occurred. It gets worse, but you’re right: the FEDs and the Florida courts have exterior motives in persecuting John Connolly and continuing to hold him in solitary. The Ulterior Motives include protecting their own hides and covering up the truth of what they’ve done to this innocent man. Worse than the Dreyfus Affair. Glad Holder resigned, maybe an honest AG will investigate this. The Silence from Federal and State officials and from the Press and Media is Deafening. Says a lot about the state of “justice” in America, Today!!!

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