Money for Criminals: The Unjust Enrichment of Felons’ Families

Piles and stacks of money - coins and US dollarsFrom what I hear John Callahan’s family is seeking money from the government and from Whitey Bulger’s assets for his murder. Apparently the federal prosecutors in Boston have no problem with this nor do the federal judges. I do.

He not only does not deserve any money but any money that he had should have be taken from him.

The government’s evidence is that John Callahan paid a hired gunman John Martorano to kill a legitimate business owner named Wheeler because he wanted to take over his business World Jai Alai. Callahan told Martorano to his face that he would pay him fifty thousand dollars for the murder. Martorano proceeded to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to do the hit with another hardened criminal named Joe McDonald. Wheeler was murdered getting into his car at his country club. He was shot in the eye and died immediately. Callahan then tried to buy the business from Wheeler’s wife hoping for some type of fire sale.

Do you think Callahan is deserving of some type of compensation from the government for this?

It would turn out that through investigative efforts by the Tulsa police department and the Tulsa FBI that the trail to Wheeler’s murder was leading back to Callahan. Despite its disinterest in assisting, the Boston FBI office was finally forced into acting. It set up an interview with Callahan about his involvement.

Martorano who murdered over 20 people, some because he thought they were going to turn state’s evidence against his brother or friends, learned that law enforcement had zeroed in on Callahan. He knew that there was one person who could put him in the jackpot and that was Callahan. Callahan had dealt directly with him so if he did not stand up then Martorano knew he would take a fall. It was not a chance Martorano could take. He invited Callahan down to Florida and put a bullet in his head.

Do you feel bad for Callahan who hired a hit man to murder another and then the hit man turned on him after he thought Callahan might disclose his role in the crime? Should we as taxpayers be required to pay Callahan’s family something because his own evil brought about his demise?

That is what is happening in matters surrounding the disbursing of funds in the Whitey Bulger matters. Through some strange mechanism the people involved in criminal activities or with criminals have been compensated by the government because the people they were dealing with turned on them. Except in one or two instances, we are not dealing with people who are innocent victims.

In law school I learned of the “clean hands doctrine.” It was that you cannot expect to get a remedy from the courts unless you had no involvement in the harm you suffered. I thought that if you wanted to be a gangster and hang around with gangsters and do what gangsters do that if you suffered because of that then that was on your plate, not someone else’s.

Take the case of Brian Halloran. He was a lifelong gangster. He had been arrested on other occasions. On one he was caught with a Mafia guy in a car with guns. He was heavily involved in drug dealing. One night he went to a restaurant in Boston’s Chinatown district and murdered George Pappas. He knew he was going to go away for life so he went to the FBI and made up a story that Whitey Bulger was involved in the Wheeler murder. He knew about the murder from his friend Callahan. He knew he had to give the FBI someone bigger than himself to have it want to get him off the hook for the murder and into a government program. (Yes, the FBI can take murderers and protect them – think of how it gave Tommy Sperrazza a new life after he murdered four people.)

Whitey learned he was being framed by Halloran – whether from the FBI or from the talk on the street. He’s not happy. He doesn’t want to take a fall for something he had nothing to do with. He then guns down Halloran.  Should the taxpayer be liable for Halloran’s death?

Unfortunately, the federal prosecutors and judges think that should be the case. I’ve always believed that if you play with fire you may get burned sooner or later and if you do then you have no right to complain. It is a strange and declining society that no longer has that belief.

8 thoughts on “Money for Criminals: The Unjust Enrichment of Felons’ Families

  1. Dear Matt,

    The U.S. Supreme Court explored the “clean hands doctrine” in a majority opinion written by Justice Frank Murphy. The case was Precision Instrument Mfg. Co. v. Automotive Co., 324 U.S. 806 (1945). There, the Court noted, “Thus, while ‘equity does not demand that its suitors shall have led blameless lives,’ Loughran v. Loughran, 292 U. S. 216, 292 U. S. 229, as to other matters, it does require that they shall have acted fairly and without fraud or deceit as to the controversy in issue. Keystone Driller Co. v. General Excavator Co., 290 U. S. 240, 290 U. S. 245; Johnson v. Yellow Cab Transit Co., 321 U. S. 383, 321 U. S. 387; 2 Pomeroy, Equity Jurisprudence (5th Ed.) §§ 397-399.”

    The Court continued by acknowledging its own broad powers to exact equitable remedies: “This maxim necessarily gives wide range to the equity court’s use of discretion in refusing to aid the unclean litigant.”

    Taking this definition in mind to the question of victims’ compensation, two key issues are overlooked.

    First, the families are being awarded restitution by the Government. They are not “suitors” here, although many families had in the past filed suits and in many cases (but not all, such as in the case of the Callahan family) won compensatory awards from the Government, due to what they asserted to be misconduct by state actors.

    Second, John Callahan is not seeking compensation or restitution. Instead, his wife, Mary, and son Patrick, are. Are you asserting that they have unclean acts because of the purported actions of their father?

    Whatever John Callahan may have done, I am unaware of any conduct for which other family members are possibly guilty, or for which they could be accused of having “unclean hands” and thereby disqualified from receiving any survivor’s benefits. Are you suggesting that they were somehow complicit? Whatever John Callahan may have done himself, does that negate his role as a father and husband?

    Many have argued that William Bulger is somehow culpable for the actions of his older brother. Your posited argument here seems to lend credibility to those claims. I argue otherwise, that the Callahan family survivors themselves have no unclean hands and therefore have full standing to pursue compensation as survivors.

    Moreover, the U.S. Constitution enumerates in Article III, Section III that “The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.” While forbidding congressional action there, the prohibition against “corruption of blood” in the most serious of criminal offenses — treasonous affairs undertaken against the patria — suggests that the Framers did not wish to punish a person’s family for acts they did not themselves commit.

    Accordingly, the victims seek compensation solely for themselves on behalf of themselves. It is not John Callahan who is seeking any compensation.


  2. The clean hands doctrine. Thanks. You nailed the solution to the problem of undue enrichment. It can be and probably has to be developed out of that concept.

  3. Hi Matt,
    Certainly, these families do not deserve compensation. Even the ‘one or two instances’ are questionable.
    The Court has determined these families should be compensated; what about the families of those Martorano and Flemmi murdered? Murders not associated in anyway with Bulger? Martorano has made money with his partner Howie Carr in telling his dark story. Martorano also collected a significant sum for movie rights. Flemmi is living comfortably off millions the Court returned to him — tainted money. Yet, neither of them need concern themselves with compensating their victims. The money is all theirs to lavish on themselves as they please.
    Proper hand-washing technique is vital in medicine: Doctors MUST abide. Perhaps the problem with the failure of the ‘clean hands doctrine’ in law is that too many judges practice with the filth of corruption on their own hands.

    1. We’re in strange times.

      As to how strange, America will be eye witness on how the justice system operates when FBI Director James Comey makes his recommendation to United States Attorney Loretta Lynch on the email scandal regarding classified materials left unprotected by Hillary Clinton and her staff.

      Notwithstanding the above, so long as all judges do not have to follow the law as in 18 USC 4 and numerous other statutes, the justice system for poor and middle class working families or 99% of America is “dead on arrival.”
      Sworn & Commissioned Officer, Massachusetts Trial Court (Retired)

      1. Mr. Kinan, off-topic: Have you written and published any accounts of your career and the shenanigans you witnessed? I’m interested in checking out any such stories.

        1. GOK:

          Good question.

          Not “off topic” and yes, I have published public corruption and criminal conduct, under color of law, that I witnessed and objected to which is public information.

          You can Google my name, or if you wish send me your email address and I’ll send you what you asked for.

          I am a friend of the police, but not “bad cops.”

          Bad cops should be removed, but Top Brass doesn’t have the courage to take measures to remove them and are willing to sacrifice the reputation of an entire police force for one or two deviants or incompetents. Bad logic and reasoning, for sure.

          You can also Google my opinion piece entitled: “POLICE: SCAPEGOATS, SITTING DUCKS OR BOTH,” in which I report that the “police have the most dangerous job in society, never knowing if they are going home, to the hospital or to the morgue.”

          Let me know if you would like any further information.

          Thank you.

    2. Good observation on John Callahan with one caveat. Everyone is entitled to due process. The families of the non-coconspirators, especially the children were entitled to have a father, even in prison. Several members of the Massachusetts State Police (particularly the MDC police), US Attorney’s Office, DEA and Customs had a much bigger role in these extra-judicial killings.

      Judge Wolf’s opinion was enlightening, however, it too protected the USAO.

  4. Matt:

    You happen to be correct.

    However, being the well seasoned attorney as you are, have you overlooked important, and in many cases, “new legal rules?”

    The “clean hands doctrine” no longer has much weight, unless you get an honest judge. Discretion has overruled facts, law and evidence, especially when the FBI, working with the U.S. Attorney’s office bands together to intentionally cover up enormous public corruption and break the law.

    Additionally, there is no such thing as the “rule of law”, no such thing as “equal justice under the law” and no such thing as a “fair trial.” If you or anyone else thinks so, answer this: Can a pro se litigant or one with a public defender use a broomstick against a Bazooka?

    Based on my direct knowledge, frame ups in exchange for a career boost are a specialty for some prosecutors, especially minority frame ups.

    Did you also know that there are big rewards for some prosecutors and some in law enforcement who break the law and use their law license, under color of law, to obstruct justice, cover up criminal acts and harm innocent citizens?

    And did you know that some predatory lawyers are allowed to steal millions with impunity and they don’t even have to pay it back?

    Sooner or later though, some get caught. For example, in September 2013, the former head of the Boston FBI office, Ken Kaiser, pleaded guilty to an ethics charge and instead of the possible one year in jail and $100,000 fine, the prosecutors recommended that he serve no prison time and pay a $15,000 fine. Why the US Attorney’s office cut a plea deal is unknown, especially when the standard is higher for law enforcement?

    Let’s hope that the new FBI Special Agent In Charge, Harold Shaw, will begin to clean up the Boston FBI office.

    If you need hard public evidence records, no hearsay, no speculation, for one of your columns, let me know.
    Sworn & Commissioned Officer, Massachusetts Trial Court (Retired)

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