Here’s The Problem With Judge Stearns Not Recusing Himself In Whitey Bulger’s Case?

(Today I’m off to the hearing in Boston.  Come back later in the day around five or so and if I have an internet connection I’ll let you know what happened.)

(I wrote a correction to this blog the next day.)

Judge Stearns wrote on July 17, 2012  in response to J.W. Carney’s motion that he recuse himself from Whitey’s trial that he was denying the motion “Because at no time during my service as an AUSA did I participate in or have any knowledge of any case or investigation in which defendant was a subject or target.”

A  person who comments on my blog reminded me of the circumstances surrounding Joseph Murray.  As I’ve previously written a lot more is carried about these matters in that comment section of my blog. Any person really interested in other views might want to take a peek at it.

Here’s the setting.  Bill Weld the former US Attorney in Boston from 1981 to 1986 was promoted to be head of the criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington, DC in 1986.  He resigned in March 27, 1988. Jeremiah O’Sullivan was in the US Attorney’s office from 1973 to 1989, most of the time with the Organized Crime Strike Force; Robert Mueller, now director of the FBI, was in the Boston office from 1982 to 1988; Judge Stearns was there from 1982 to 1990.  Stearns was made chief of the criminal division on December 23, 1984 and presumably held that post until 1990. When Weld left, Frank McNamara was appointed US Attorney. He served  from 1987 to 1989.

On January 6, 1988, Weld was in DC, McNamara, Mueller and Stearns in the US attorney’s office in Boston, and AUSA O’Sullivan with the Strike Force in Boston. Here is what happened that day according to findings by Judge Wolf and as set forth in Ralph Ranalli’s book, Deadly Alliance. Weld’s secretary in DC received a call from a woman stating she had information about corrupt law enforcement officials who were working with Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi. She begged the woman not to pass the information back to  the authorities in Boston. Weld received the note, thought it interesting and told his secretary to talk to the woman again if she called.

Two weeks later she did. She said John Connolly and a Boston police deputy Walsh were selling information to Whitey and Stevie about wiretaps. Weld wrote that he knew something about this and forwarded the memo to an associate.

A week later the woman called again saying, according to the secretary’s note,  “I have information on the Brian Holloran (sic) killing.  It was done by Whitey Dulger (sic) and Pat Nee. I may possibly have an eyewitness [informant] who may possibly come forward.”

On February 3, 1988 at 3:04 pm she called again. She said, “Whitey Bulger and Pat Nee, they also kidnapped Arthur, nickname, Bucky, Barret looking for money from the Medford Bank Depositor’s Trust.  They held him and went to his house and took $300,000 and then they killed him. . . .”

Weld then dictated his own memo. He ordered the notes of the calls be sent to Boston to McNamara and O’Sullivan. Weld wrote, “Both O’Sullivan and Bob Mueller are well aware of the history, and the information sounds good.”

A week later the mystery woman (who would turn out to be Joseph Murray’s wife. Murray was a large marijuana importer who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Whitey to operate) called again and talked about having a witness who talked to Bulger and Nee in the car just before the shooting.

Ranalli writes: “A month or two later Weld ran into Frank McNamara . . . and urged him to do something about the memos he sent. “We need to talk about this,” he told his successor.”  Shortly after that Weld resigned.

Ranalli goes on, “The leads from the mysterious caller languished during McNamara’s bizarre, brief tenure as U.S. Attorney.”  That meant this information of great significance sat with McNamara for almost a year. O’Sullivan who also had it, gave it to the FBI despite the caller’s request he not do so. He refused to explain why he did this. The FBI interviewed Joe Murray but did nothing else about it.

Here’ the predicament I see. J.W, Carney, Whitey’s lawyer, is alleging that Whitey was given immunity by O’Sulllivan. One way he can show this is by showing the inaction by the U.S. Attorney’s office whenever it got information about Whitey. When Weld sent the information to McNamara wouldn’t he have discussed it with the chief of his criminal division, which I believe may have been Stearns, and with other people in the criminal division. McNamara had no background in the criminal law.

It seems that this is a legitimate matter that Carney should be permitted to explore, that is, why did McNamara do nothing about the material Weld sent to him? What was Stearns’s relationship to McNamara at that time? What did he know about this?  What was (FBI director then AUSA) Mueller’s involvement? Stearns and he have a very close relationship, did Mueller and Stearns ever discuss Whitey? Those are just a few of the questions. This is the heart of Whitey’s defense. Stearns by not recusing himself is preventing Carney from going in that direction.

These matters keep getting curiouser and curiouser.


13 thoughts on “Here’s The Problem With Judge Stearns Not Recusing Himself In Whitey Bulger’s Case?

  1. I meant to write that the Boston jury rejected “some of” Judge Wolfe’s findings of fact. For example, the Boston jury acquitted Connolly of leaking any information that lead to Halloran’s death.

  2. I don’t call people “corrupt” who disagree with me. When judges and prosecutors violate the spirit and letter of the law and the constitution, I call that corrupt. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade case is a sterling example. The U.S. Supreme Court said that the Massachusetts judiciary acted “without lawful authority.” Judges acting without lawful authority are acting corrruptly. The lone dissenting judge in Massachusetts Joseph Nolan wrote that his collegues acted in “flagrant” violation of the Veterans’ First Amendment rights. A flagrant act is a knowing egregious act. There are a myriad of historical examples of judges and prosecutors acting corruptly. There was flagrant corruption in the St. Pat’s Parade case. There was flagrant corruption in Connolly’s prosecution. The 2002 Boston jury not only rejected the bulk of the serial killers’ testimony, it flat out rejected Judge Wolfe’s 1998 findings of “facts”. Something’s rotten in the state of Massachusetts!

  3. Patty seems to be 100% right in her assessment of things. The double jeopardy clause of the US Constitution prohibits a person from being tried twice for a crime he was acquitted of. The one exception is when two different sovereigns try the person for the same crime. We all know it was Federal prosecutors who tried John Connolly twice: first in Boston then in Miami. You previously wrote that you thought that was “unprecedented.” You previously wrote it was “a great injustice” what happened to Connolly in Miami. Wyshak perpetrated that injustice. Who cut the deal with Salemme and Martorano that they didn’t have to testify about the Mafia? The Connolly case in Florida, the Tierney case, the probation officers case, all spearheaded by Wyshak. Finally, prior to the 2002 trial in Boston, Wyshak warned Prosecutor Durham not to use Salemme as a witness in Boston because Salemme was a known perjurer, then in Miami, Wyshak put the known perjurer Flemmi on the stand. Unjust or corrupt? A spade is a spade.

  4. 1. John Connolly was an FBI agent for 23 years and handled Whitey Bulger for 15 years. At his Boston trial in 2002, he was convicted of one act—just one act—while an FBI agent during these 23 years. It was the act of delivering a case of wine with a $1,000 envelope in it to his boss, John Morris. He was never convicted of taking any money, any rings, nor anything of value from the gangsters. He was acquited of leaking any information that led to anyone’s murder. He was acquitted of leaking information that led to Halloran’s, Castucci’s and Callahan’s murders. 2. It’s a corrupt act for a federal prosecutor to try a man twice for a cime he was acquitted of. Federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak was the lead counsel in Miami who tried John Connolly for the same crime he was found not guilty of in a federal court in Boston. It’s also a corrupt act to move for sentencing on a statute for which the statute of limitations has run. Those are much more corrupt acts than anything the FBI in Boston ever did. It’s a corrupt act to give leniency and cut deals with serial killers involved in over forty murders—Martorano, Salemme, Weeks, Nee—in order to go after two men, Bulger and Flemmi, allegedly involved in a combined 22 murders. It was a corrupt act to put serial killers back on the streets of Boston after a slap on the wrist.
    3. It’s not fair to continually accuse a man of acts such as leaking information or accepting bribe money for which he’s been acquitted by a jury of his peers. Accusations similar to Susan Murray’s were presented to a jury in Boston and rejected.

    1. I pointed all that out about Connolly but suggested that his actions after he left the FBI in joining up with Weeks and Flemmi were plainly wrong. He was rightfully convicted of those actions.
      It is not corrupt for Wyshak to again try Connolly for his actions in Florida. I don’t think he should have done it, mainly because of the Supremacy Clause, but he had a right under our law to do it. The jury in Florida convicted Connolly. It is not corrupt to move for sentencing. The burden of bringing up the statute was on Connolly’s attorney.
      The corruption of the FBI in Boston was teaming up with Whitey and Flemmi two known murderers and giving them protection. There is no doubt that happened. It was not corrupt to deal with Martorano and Weeks to get Flemmi and Bulger. What was the alternative. Let them all go? Prosecute Martorano for only the racketeering charges? They knew nothing about his murders that they could prove. With Weeks, not have him disclose the locations of the bodies? They lowered Salemme’s time a year or so and then put him back in the can. Dealing with him was stupid. Nee is a mystery to me. Bulger and Flemmi were the leaders of Winter Hill. They were killing people for the Mafia. Did you want the feds to give them a pass?
      Connolly was convicted of bribery for giving Morris a bribe on behalf of Whitey and Stevie. I don’t think because people do things you disagree with you should be calling them corrupt.

  5. this information put on the blog today goes right to the heart of the frurstration with the whole whitey bulger affair. when mr weld left his job he never thought to follow up on this? all these top jobs these people had and what was the end result? i think your average member of the public would say that the fbi in boston during those years seemed to operate in a twilight zone.from john morris to mr weld it just seems almost beyond words. the trial when it comes will be riveting because whitey may be old but who knows what information is going to come up? i thank the author of this blog for taking the time to put this information out to the public.

    1. Doug: Weld resigned because he was having trouble with Attorney General Edwin Meese’s running of the AG’s department under President Reagan and his involvement with E. Robert Wallach and the Wedtech Corporation. Once he left there was nothing else he could have done. If he thought about it at all after he left, it was probably only in passing. He would assume that McNamara and O’Sullivan were doing something about it.
      The FBI back in those days did operate in somewhat of a twilight zone but it still does. I have no confidence that anything has changed since the days of Whitey. We just don’t know about what it does and who it is covering up for among the gangsters.
      You are right about Whitey’s testimony going to be riveting (good choice of words). Yesterday the courtroom was jammed. I heard the marshal behind me asking some people to push in to make room. Nothing was really happening except a routine motion for a continuance. There’s so much interest in this that it is surprising to me.

  6. If John Iuele is aka Whitey Bulger, then a similar question could be asked about the sequences of events that occurred within days of my testimony for the Organized Crime Task Force Eastern District of Pennsylvania in re: USA v Rennert, in March 1997. I had been subpoenaed to testify by the prosecution. After hearing my testimony I was informed that the AUSA in charge of the case filed a request with her superiors to expand the current investigation to cover my complaints regarding John Iuele and Gene Phillips.

    I was shortly informed that her superior refused her request. I was then informed that that the request had also been sent to the Office of the FBI in Boston, and it way my understanding that the request also went to the FBI HQ in DC.

    If there were a policy in place to protect FBI Top Echelon Informants our facts would support that conjecture. Shortly after I was informed that the investigation was closed, the pump house at the High Birches Springs in NO. Woodstock, NH was sabotaged. And then on 9/11 1997, the main production well of on that same property was contaminated with a cocktail of carcinogenic chemicals to include heavy metals.

    And, then several weeks later a monitoring well was contaminated with similar chemicals. I have identified one possible suspect whom I saw at the site at the time of the last contamination. All the evidence that I have reported stated that the individual was driving a vehicle that appeared to have belonged to a company affiliated with the Winter Hill Gang, out of Sommerville, MA.

    I was informed in August 2009 that my complaints had been turned over to the US DOJ Criminal Division, The US Dept of State, and Social Security Administration.

    A Series explaining these issues, among other related issues, in detail has been posted on it’s titled NO WITNESS = NO CASE.

    1. Jean:
      In June 1997 Whitey was on the lam. I do not know if he used the alias John Luele. Whitey had been terminated as a top echelon informant in late 1990 or early 1991. I did a quick look at USA v. Rennert which seemed to be some charges relating to security fraud. The judge’s memorandum denying the motion for a new trial ran on for 52 pages. I have to express my doubts that Whitey would be involved in any crimes up in New Hampshire after he fled in January 1995. He certainly would not have been driving a car connected with the Winter Hill gang in 1997 which at that time had been pretty much put out of existence. Thanks for writing.

  7. “Defendant undoubtedly prefers not to be tried on the schedule set by the court, or not to be tried at all. . . But like [former associates] Kevin Weeks, Kevin O’Neil, Stephen Flemmi, and Michael Flemmi, all of whom have appeared as defendants before me in this case, James Bulger’s case will be adjudicated by the rules of the court, and not the contrary wishes of defendant or defendant’s counsel.” -Judge Stearns

    Stearns’s reference to Weeks, Flemmi, O’Neil, is confusing and seemingly irrelevant. Now I am thinking that Judge Stearns crowing provides defense counsel with another powerful argument for recusal. Looking at the big picture of the Bulger case, it boils down to current federal law enforcement officials blaming all organized crime on Bulger and all law enforcement malfeasance on John Connolly. The “rogue agent” theory protects the ‘family’, past and present. Blaming every crime and murder committed over forty years on Bulger is also neat and redirects attention away from the law enforcement. The USA is trying to tie this mess up in a tidy package and stop anyone from pulling at the threads.

    Attorney’s Wyshak and Kelly, however, have used even more sinister, unethical, illegal and immoral means to tie this mess up in a neat package. Look at the witnesses they immunized and glorified to sell this batch: Martorano, Weeks, Flemmi, O’Neal, Nee, Salemme… Wyshak and Kelly purchased their testimony, knowing much of it to be perjury. They scripted these witnesses to give the story thew wanted. The incentive Wyshak and Kelly gave this motley crew is unprecedented in America. They got absolution jointly for over 100 homicides! In addition, they were paid handsomely in cash. All this was done if they would give information about just two men. Wyshak and Kelly gave them the names, told how much they would be paid (their lives) and then let these men collude to get their stories in line just enough to put everything on Bulger and Connolly.

    Stearns’s error is that he blessed these outrageous deals from the bench. He fell in line with Wyshak and Kelly on every case and he is personally and professionally vested in the likes of Kevin Weeks. Of course Stearns doesn’t want Carney to blow Weeks apart on the stand! Stearns was a principal party to that deal and bears responsibility for the mass of perjury that followed.

    Moreover, the outrageous deals Stearns blessed as a judge directly benefited him. The Wyshak Kelly theory of only two bad actors in the last fifty years cuts off the scrutiny of Stearns’s conduct during his days as a supervising USA while all the malfeasance behind the case was rampant.

    Another view is lost by the Wyshak Kelly sales pitch, justice. What is the value to society of immunizing a dozen or more murderers who committed over 100 murders collectively, to go after Bulger and Connolly?
    If Bulger is Public Enemy Number One, what number is John Martorano? What number is John Morris?
    This full court press has nothing to do with a retired agent named Connolly and an old man living quietly in a Cal apartment. It’s about the coverup, and since it was built on flimsy purchased testimony, it will require a corrupt judge like Stearns to pull it off.

    1. Patty:
      Good comment except you and I differ 180 degrees on Stearns. I would never suggest Stearns or anyone else in this case is corrupt. Stearns has been on the bench I think since 1990. He has an excellent reputation for fairness and integrity. He seems to bend over backwards for defendants but is not soft when it comes to sentencing. I might feel on the evidence I’ve seen he should recuse himself but I’d never suggest his refusal to do so is based on other than his honest belief that it is not necessary and that he will be a fair judge.
      His comment about defendant not preferring to be tried at all seemed a little intemperate but he’s being briefed by Judge Bowler, his magistrate, who seemed stuck on the idea that Carney got all the discovery he asked for so he should be ready for trial. The first time he heard from Carney was yesterday. Remember he does not operate in a vacuum. He’s in constant touch with the other judges and clerks. There’s pressure on the judges not to recuse themselves by other judges who don’t want to have to jump into something they know nothing about. Let’s see what he does now that he’s personally involved.
      I agree his reference to other defendant’s seems to be strange since their cases are in no way analogous. Stearns just had to look at the crowd in the court on a motion hearing for a continuance to know that.
      I agree that everyone wants to lump this case into two neat packages: (1) none of these killings and other organized criminal activities would have happened if Whitey did not exist; and, (2) the FBI was tricked by Connolly, the rogue agent, and if he had not protected Whitey then Whitey would not have committed those crimes. It is simple. It has carried the day so far. Maybe it can be pulled off.
      I don’t know much about Kelly. I know Wyshak. I believe he is 100% on the level (as I assume Kelly is). I don’t agree with some of the things they have done but that does not mean they are wrong. I worked with the top prosecutors in this state, many have gone on to be prominent judges, and I disagreed with a lot of the things they did. People see things differently. In my book I agreed with their actions in going after this can of worms that existed because of Whitey. I believe dealing with Martorano and Weeks (for the bodies) was right if they were to get Whitey and Stevie, who were better targets. My problem with what they’ve done is I don’t like the closeness they seemed to have developed with these thugs. I don’t understand why O’Neal and Nee seem to be getting passes. Salemme, of course, is an outlier. I have trouble with the deal they made with him since he added little to the case and was a top Mafia chief.
      But I don’t question their integrity. They had a theory on the case. The witnesses filled it in for them. I don’t believe they would put witnesses on the stand knowing they were perjuring themselves. May be they are kidding themselves because they have made their bed with these witnesses and closing their eyes to what appear to be obvious untruths by their clients.
      That is the problem with dealing with gangsters. They lie. They live lives of lies. But not all of what they say are lies. But once you bring them onto your boat, you’re stuck with them. Suppose Weeks is lying about the man in the back seat being masked. What do you do as a prosecutor if you call him on it and he sticks with his story? Not use him when you believe 99% of everything else he is saying? These are difficult questions. Do you let Whitey walk away with all the murders he has committed because you may have doubts about some parts of your witnesses testimony but believe the heart of it. I’ve suggested in my book that is a matter for cross-examination but the prosecutor has an affirmative duty with a witness who has a deal to insure the witness not dodge and weave on cross.
      Bottom line is the evidence will show Whitey is involved in many of these murders and may have committed many of them. That’s why he is coming up with the immunity defense. If he was going to deny he was involved in these murders, he would not need that defense. There is little doubt in my mind about Whitey being a gunman for the Killeens and then the leader of the Winter Hill gang of murderous thugs. He is a legitimate target and should be brought down. Connolly did handle Whitey. The things Connolly was convicted of at his trial in Boston were things he did. He believed his job was to protect Whitey. He said everyone knew Whitey was a murderer which means he knew. Connolly’s actions after he left the FBI were wrong when he allied himself with Weeks and Flemmi. His actions as an FBI agent were what he thought the job wanted him to do.
      We differ on our opinions. I’m glad. I don’t want to operate an echo chamber. I welcome and appreciate your input. You help keep me on the straight and narrow. Thanks.

  8. Even though Mrs. Murray’s claims about Halloran and Barret are accurate her charges against Connolly and Walsh were meritless. FBI supervisors investigated her claims. They interviewed her husband Jo Murray who said she was crazy and not to be believed. She later killed him. She seems to be of a similar character to Chrystal Magnum who falsely claimed she was raped by the Duke lacross players and then later went on to commit murder.Two deranged women. 2. Carney would seem to have ample cause to call Weld and Stearns as witnesses on the immunity issue. His best bet may be to press the change of venue and recusal issues. When his motions are denied he should appeal. The Court of Appeals will also deny his request. He then should consult with the dream team of lawyers who won the St. Pats parade case and see if SCOTUS will grant cert. The Whitey case looks more and more like the Sam Shepard case every day. What a circus.

    1. Neal,
      I disagree with you about Susan Murray. She is far from deranged. Comparing her to the woman in the Duke case seems far fetched. The FBI never investigated her claims. It covered them up. Two supervisors, Clark and Quinn, the latter who described himself as a close friend of Connolly’s, were sent out to interview Joe Murray. The purpose of the interview was to find out what he knew about Connolly and Newton being corrupt. They came back and filed a report. Nothing in their report related to that issue. That is hardly an investigation. (Read Ranalli’s book and Judge Wolf’s findings on the Murray episode.)
      Later, embarrassed when it became public knowledge that they did this, they came up with the idea of saying that Joe Murray told them that his wife was wrong. If that had happened, it would have been the headlines in the 302. The FBI never investigates one of its own unless forced to do it. It covers things up epecially in cases where the agents have worked together for a while.
      Carney is pretty much out of luck on the recusal and change of venue motions. It’ll take a couple of minutes for the Appeals Court to uphold Stearns’s decision in those matters. I believe this gets curiouser and curiouser is because I believe Stearns would not have written he knows nothing about any investigation into Whitey if that were not the case. The evidence seems to point otherwise. That is why I believe Carney should have the opportunity to inquire into that area to determine the answer.
      As far as Sam Shepard is concerned there are similarities. There is widespread publicity. Can you believe the courtroom was packed for a motion for a continuance argument and the defendant was no present?
      I Google the Shepard case and saw that Edward J. Blythin, the trial judge, reportedly said to newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen shortly before the trial started said, “Well, he’s guilty as hell. There’s no question about it.” I think any judge in the state if asked would answer like Blythin about Whitey. Unlike Shepard, Whitey would probably admit to most murders. Remember his defense is he was given immunity for all his actions.

Comments are closed.