Salemme, a known murderer and former head of the New England Mafia, admitted perjury at the trial of FBI Agent John Connolly coupled with what is called his recantation where he admitted to a fellow inmate that he testified to things that were false at that trial. His perjury and recantation is treated by Judge Selya as no more than a tempest in a teapot.
One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. Banker Andy Dufresne is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. While in Shawshank prison, another prisoner named Tommy Williams arrives. Tommy reveals that an inmate at another prison claimed responsibility for the murders Andy was convicted of. This proves what Andy has maintained all along that he is innocent. Unfortunately, Tommy is murdered before he can provide evidence of this. There is no doubt to anyone watching the movie that had Tommy not been killed, his testimony would have set Andy free.
The situation in Connolly’s case is similar. An inmate at another prison has evidence the witness against Connolly lied at his trial. That witness is willing to testify. Unfortunately, his evidence is not given any credence. Perhaps that would have happened to Andy had Tommy lived and the case went before Judge Selya.
What’s particularly egregious about this is that another recantation by a witness played a major role in the events surrounding these matters. You recall Judge Wolf was the first to break open the relationship between the FBI and Whitey and Stevie Flemmi. Judge Wolf wanting to believe that FBI Agent Paul Rico lied when he denied tipping Flemmi off about the indictment – surprising how many times the federal courts go with the gangsters testimony over the FBI agents – noted that the Rhode Island Supreme Court had found that FBI Agent Paul “Rico had directed [witness John “Red” Kelley] . . . not to mention the armorer’s role in the murders. It appears that the armorer was a valuable FBI informant that Special Agent Rico wanted to keep on the streets. . . . Rico had also caused Kelley to lie about the promises that Rico had made to obtain his cooperation. “
The Rhode Island Supreme Court case overruled a lower court finding of harmless error and said : “We believe, however, that Kelley’s perjury at Lerner’s trial relating to the extent of promises made to Kelley by the FBI in exchange for his testimony and Special Agent Rico’s corroboration of that perjury were material to Kelley’s credibility and therefore to the issue of Lerner’s guilt.”
The Lerner they referred to was Maurice “Pro” Lerner a Mafia hit man who was connected with the Patriarca crime family, the family that Salemme would eventually take over as leader. Lerner was serving two life sentences for his involvement in murders.
John Kelley was a lifelong gangster who in 1970 testified one way. 13 years later at the trial of the then Patriarca crime family leader, Luigi Giovanni “Baby Shacks” Manocchio, he came in with a new story which did not vary much from the original story. Where it did Kelley said it was because on the earlier occasion Rico told him what to say. The RI Supreme Court found Rico caused him to lie back in 1970 preferring to believe that in 1983 Kelley was then being truthful.
The Chief Justice of the RI Supreme court, Joseph A. Bevilacqu, was closely connected with Patriarca having written of him as: ”a person of integrity and, in my opinion, good moral character.” He sat in on the arguments but supposedly did not participate in the decision of that court.
Gangster Red Kelley recanted. He said he lied at his first trial because of FBI Agent Rico. (He is believed even though it is a stretch to see how if he had lied those lies were material.) The R.I. Supreme Court’s finding allows Mafia hitman Lerner to be released from prison.
Gangster Salemme recanted. He said he lied at the trial of FBI Agent Connolly because the prosecutors induced him to do it. The Boston federal appeals court finds his lies immaterial. (See prior posts this week to show how the exact opposite is the case) It assures FBI Agent Connolly will remain in prison.
Worse Kelley’s recantation is used to justify further demonization of FBI Agent Rico. Salemme’s recantation is ignored as if it never happened. Where the recantation helps gangsters it is believed, where it helps FBI agents it is disbelieved.
One of the problems in all this is the feeling that the Mafia is orchestrating the whole outcome. The two agents most responsible for its demise are indicted and locked up and the Mafia comes out smelling like roses splitting among some of its members one hundred million dollars plus of our taxpayer money.
How do you escape the feeling that revenge is best served on a cold platter? Why is it the federal courts are so willing to believe gangsters in a show down with FBI agents? What does that say about the federal courts? Or the FBI? We know the FBI seeks never to be embarrassed but can there be any greater embarrassment than this.