There’s no doubt Frank Salemme’s testimony played a crucial role in the conviction of FBI Agent John Connolly. Federal Appeals Court Selya’s pretended Frank Salemme’s information given to a fellow prisoner (CS) was nothing more than braggadocio or excessive boastfulness. But when you start your decision as he did, as I indicated previously, with statement indicating a closed mind you have to falsely denigrate facts that strike at the heart of one’s beliefs.
He said of Flemmi’s statement to the CS: “Importantly, however, Salemme’s testimony did not occur in a vacuum. Several other witnesses corroborated aspects of it.” He adds later: “Thus, although Salemme testified to a number of things as to which no other witness had personal knowledge, much of his testimony received substantial circumstantial corroboration.”
To understand how crucial the testimony was, as I pointed out before, Connolly’s conviction that he had Flemmi testify falsely relied solely on Salemme’s testimony; and, worse, an examination of the jury verdict shows that the jury disregarded any evidence from the gangsters (it rejected everything John Martorano said) that did not receive corroboration. Salemme’s corroboration of Weeks’s testimony about Connolly tipping off Whitey and Flemmi to flee was crucial to Connolly being found guilty of that offense. Take Salemme out of the trial, examine the action of the jury then it is fair to assert there would Connolly would not have been convicted of racketeering.
More fundamentally, Judge Selya would have us believe the following: Witness Q identified Mr. Nobody as the bank robber. Witness R also identifies Mr. Nobody as the bank robber. The jury convicts Mr. Nobody. Later witness R says she lied. Selya said it does not matter because witness of Q’s identification. In other words, two people identifying a person is the same to a jury as if one person identified him. One can only think of the old saw: “oh, what a tangled web we weave . . . when first we practice to deceive.”
Judge Selya concluded Salemme’s recantation was unreliable based on three reasons: First, that Salemme told the CS that the prosecutors were going to see that “his prison term was to be commuted.” Judge Selya said that decision was not one of a prosecutor but it was up to a judge. What Salemme told the CS was “he was going to be released from prison as soon as he was done testifying.” The facts are the prosecutors recommended his sentence be reduced. The judge reduced it. He did get out shortly after he testified.
His second reason is that the CS said Salemme told him he did not know Connolly prior to his arrest or had met or seen him only once. We know that is untrue. Salemme was arrested by him and met with him at the Prudential. Salemme might have lied about it to the CS or the CS remembered wrongly. One would not expect everything one con reported about conversations with another to be 100% accurate. But when 90% of the things are right, pointing to the 10% that the CS recalled wrongly or that Salemme misstated is to do an injustice to the evidence before the court.
Finally, Judge Selya said Salemme told the CS he was pressured by the prosecutors. He noted the prosecutors denied this. He said their denial can be believed because his initial briefings were conducted in front of his lawyer. He then added: “one could just as easily believe in the tooth fairy as believe that a lawyer of Cardinale’s stature was complicit in the most brazen sort of prosecutorial misconduct.”
Strangely, Judge Selya misunderstands the defense lawyer’s role. Were the prosecutors interested in Salemme incriminating himself, of course Cardinale would never have let that happen. But Cardinale was interested in representing Salemme to get the best deal he could for him. Further the initials briefings probably did not involve the debriefing. Cardinale probably told Salemme after he had the deal to “tell them what they want to hear.”
As I mentioned before, Judge Selya came at Connolly’s appeal with a mindset to deny him any help. He overlooked most of what CS said Salemme told him including he never gave Connolly anything including money, he’d tell the prosecutors what happened and they’d suggest it may have happened another way which he’d adopt, he would have done anything to get out of prison, that the prosecutors told him it was his chance to get even with Connolly, that Connolly and Bulger were Irish bums, and how Connolly was his “ticket home.” But it doesn’t end there.