FBI Agents file reports from informants on a Form 209. They put in these reports what the informant tells them. So do other police agencies file similar reports. Any FBI agent or investigator knows that the information provided by the informant may be true, or it may be false. Lots of informant reports are nothing more than hearsay which the informant picks up on the street. Others are highly self-serving.
We’ve seen in Whitey’s case 209 reports putting the killing of Halloran on people who didn’t do it or setting out false reasons for his murder. No one believes them now because we know the truth. If any fault is found with them the media blames the agent for filing false reports. It shows the gap in understanding. The agent files what the informant tells him. The agent does not vouch for its truthfulness. It is a foundation. Before it can be believed much other work has to be done.
As proof of any fact, they should be ignored without other evidence to support them. Often they form the basis for a warrant when additional police work is done to show their validity. That includes surveillance and other normal investigative tactics.
I write about this today because I was reading the decision by Judge Nancy Gertner in Limone v. United States where she awarded over 100 million in damages to four persons, and their families, who she found were illegally incarcerated due to the malfeasance of the FBI. Two of the defendants were high level Mafia figures.
Gertner went out of her way to discredit anything the FBI agents said in preference to believing the gangsters and their lawyers. In castigating the FBI she said its agents: “Allowed Barboza to testify as to a motive for the Deegan murder – – part of the McLaughlin-McLean dispute – – when they knew that the LCN was not involved at all in those battles. See supra note 64.”
Note 64 said: “A November 11, 1965, FBI memorandum reporting a contact with . . . [a] Top Echelon Informant states that at that time, “the LCN in this area has not actively taken part in the gang war.”
Deegan was murdered on March 12, 1965. Gertner concluded that because a Top Echelon Informant stated eight months after the Deegan murder that the Mafia [also called the LCN] was not involved in the gang war the FBI agents had to believe what that informant stated. Did she ever consider the FBI might not have believed the informant or had other information contradicting the informant?
The FBI had installed a listening device in the leader of the New England Mafia Raymond L. S. Patriarca’s office on March 6, 1962 three years before the Deegan murder. On March 4, 1965, a week and a day before it, Patriarca told Boston Mafia boss Angiulo that Jimmy Flemmi had visited him seeking permission to murder Deegan. Three days before the murder the FBI overheard Jimmy Flemmi and Joe Barboza asking for the “ok” to hit Deegan. Patriarca told them to contact Angiulo who would give them the final answer.
It’s clear the hit was carried out with the permission of the Mafia. Jimmy Flemmi one of the people involved who would become an FBI informant said it was done as part of the McLaughlin- McLean dispute because Deegan was helping the McLaughlins. Couldn’t the FBI have easily concluded that Mafia was involved in that dispute when it sanctioned a hit on a guy who the shooter said was killed because he was helping the McLaughlins?
During the 1960’s the misnamed “Irish Gang War” saw over sixty people murdered. The number that can be attributed to the McLaughlin-McLean dispute, the Irish gangs, is about a dozen. Another two dozen can be laid at the hands of the Roxbury group a mostly Italian gang. Also active during the time was the Mafia with Larry Baione its enforcer doing a few hits.
It seems a stretch to hold the FBI to what one TEI informant told them and to disregard everything else that is happening on the street at the time or what may be contained in numerous other reports. Between that report in November 1965 and the time Barboza began talking with the FBI on March 8, 1967 a lot of water and dead bodies had passed under the bridge.
Whether the Mafia was involved in the McLaughlin-McLean dispute is not really the issue. Neither is whether the FBI knew or didn’t know its involvement. It’s what Barboza believed that mattered. His best friend Jimmy Flemmi who was with him during the murder supported his belief.
What would the judge have said if the FBI agents told Barboza not to testify as to his true belief because they believed otherwise?