Whitey Bulger and the Globe’s Will McDonough: Writing the Truth

() Will mcdonoughWill McDonough died over twelve years ago in 2003. During his lifetime he was considered the top sports reporter especially when it came to the NFL. An article telling of his life in the newspaper he worked for most of his career noted:Substance was what mattered. Those who had it, he embraced. Those who tried to snow him – and, by extension, the public – with superficiality, he scorned.”

After John Connolly was convicted in 2002, Will wrote a letter to Judge Joseph Tauro about him. I read it the other day. I think it is important for us to remember what he wrote. The more we have learned about the case the more we see how much accurate truthfulness he set out. He was  at the time he wrote a national figure and at the top of his career. He did not have to step up to the plate and take this swing to try to help out John Connolly.

I reproduce the letter below. It was obviously self-typed with a handful of spelling errors that I corrected. It is well worth reading.


I  have been a friend of John Connolly’s for more than 40 years. I hold him in the highest personal regard. He is a great father, and husband, and was tremendous in his career with the FBI.

I hope you can find it in your heart to give him the most lenient sentence possible. All of us would be better served with John in our community raising his children.

As for the trial, allow me to give my input. I was Billy Bulger’s first campaign manager in 1960. I was the best man in his sister Carol’s wedding. I played high school football with his brother Jack. I have known Jim “Whitey” Bulger for 50 years. I visited him when he was in Leavenworth, Kan., Federal prison in the late 1960’s when I was covering the Red Sox. I too got him the job to get him out of prison, when his brother didn’t have enough clout to do it.

I last spoke with Jim about two months before he [next words are blurred in my copy.] From what has happened since, it is easy to see he had planned for his escape. Kevin Weeks is full of bull. There is no way John would have gone to the store to tell him, Whitey himself told me months earlier the store was always under surveillance. If John wanted to tip Whitey, he would have done it directly. 

John Connolly did what his superiors asked him to do, and he did it well. Then they had him take the fall. If he had lied for them back at the start of this investigation, he wouldn’t be in  the spot he is in now. We know from the history of the FBI they are an inept crew. All we have to do is read the paper every day. Now about what they did to Salvati and Limone. The government just did the same to John.

Let me say this. Bill Bulger was not John Connolly’s mentor. He was just a friend. John was already in college when he met Bill. Secondly, John Connolly grew up (after 8 years of age) five miles from the Bulger project. Whitey didn’t know him from a sidewalk brick until Whitey was around 40 years old.

Hope you are in good health. I saw you at Earl Cooley’s time but didn’t have a chance to say hello. Stay well.

Thanks for your consideration

Will McDonough” 

Think of McDonough’s major points and consider how much they contradict the accepted story and support what I have been writing. Whitey would not have known Connolly until he was in the FBI; Connolly would never have gone to the liquor store to have Weeks pass on a message to Whitey; Billy Bulger had no relationship with Connolly until the time he was running for office in 1960; and Connolly was doing the job he was supposed to be doing and the FBI turned on him.




15 thoughts on “Whitey Bulger and the Globe’s Will McDonough: Writing the Truth

  1. Dear Matt,

    This is really serendipitous timing to return to this letter now after 13 years. I was just talking about this exact same letter with some others only a couple of months ago, as part of my own research. I happen to have a clear copy of the letter on hand myself, and here is the missing text which is blurred on your end:

    “I last spoke with Jim about two months before he disappeared. Believe me, he knew what was coming at that time. From what has happened since…”

    Thanks so much for putting this out into the public domain for all to read.


  2. ★ ” A poor man’s Mike Barnicle ” is an oxymoron ; Will McDonough was maybe somewhat of a bastard for detractors, but an authentic bastard undoubtedly. Always poor form to denounce the dead especially as in this case a certainty is that McDonough, Will McDonough, would heve punched the bold critic in the mouth.

  3. Matt,

    I know you’re a huge fan of Tauro, but my limited direct experience with the guy in recent years firmly convinced me that he’s a narrow-minded, egotistical, asshole with an undisguisable hatred for any Bulger or Connolly or Sullivan or McDonough, etc etc. And no, I’ve never lost a case or ruling before him. I’ve just seen his hatred up close and it was truly startling conduct. Perhaps NC is correct about Tauro’s motivations. I only know for certain that that he’s a bad person.

      1. Absolutely. I’m would imagine Roger is a good person, but his esteem for the bloviating lout Will McDonough couldn’t be more misplaced. The guy was a loudmouth and a bully…a poor mans Mike Barnicle…who blustered his way through life creating a fake mystique that was bought hook line and sinker by many. Those of us who know the truth know better. Item 1: Sean succeeded in spite of the old fool, not because of him.

  4. His letter corroborates much of what you have argued. The people with personal knowledge of John Connolly, including your three brothers and two cousins Jim, know he was honest and he was framed. What does the grossly excessive sentence Tauro gave Connolly say about his ethics? He was not a disinterested party. He was a close friend of Bellotti and Cooley both of whom had agendas against Bulger. Tauro punished Connolly for his friendship with Bill Bulger whom Bellotti blamed for costing him the governorship. Cooley had been threatened by Whitey over the race fixing case so he had an axe to grind. Cooley and Bellotti’s antipathy towards the Bulger brothers resulted in influencing Tauro to give Connolly his absurd sentence. The plan was to squeeze Connolly into co operation and get some dirt on Bill Bulger. Just as you deduced at his trial he wasn’t the target Bill Bulger was. Professor Torture even wrote a letter to the Globe saying Connolly was just a cop force him to testify against Bulger. 2. Read a great story called Hellhound on his Trail by Hampton Sides. It details the chase and capture of James Earl Ray. It points out that FBI agent Fitzpatrick retrieved the murder weapon in Memphis and returned it to the crime lab in D.C. The book doesn’t give the detail as to whether Fitzpatrick obtained it from the alcove where it had been discarded or got it at the FBI office in Memphis. Seems like a minor detail to be indicted over. Plus his boasts were completely immaterial to the Whitey trial. Fitzpatrick was indicted because he told the truth that Morris was the leak not Connolly. His truthful assertion undercuts the media’s bogus accepted story. 3. Syrian refugees should be relocated in the countries that started the Syrian civil war. Those include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Kuwait. What is your take on the first press conference by the FBI in the San Bernadino shooting? Two hours after Farook is killed they claim they haven’t identified the terrorist. Farook’s name is all over the internet and a warrant is obtained for his house. This was as big a lie as the Boston FBI saying they didn’t know who Tsarnaev was. Is it part of their playbook to be false with the public?

    1. NC:

      1. I don’t go as far as you do about Judge Tauro. I don’t think outside influences affected his decision in any way. He might have liked Cooley and Bellotti but he also liked Will McDonough and a ton of other people. He did notice he was offended by Connolly’s letter to Wolf which tried to throw off the case against Flemmi. He also believed that Connolly had something to do with the gangster’s deaths that the jury found was not proven. The federal law is that even if a jury finds one way on some counts a judge can still take them into account as part of his sentencing which is what Tauro did.

      I don’t think Tauro was part of any prosecution plan which was to have Connolly turn against Billy Bulger. Never heard of Cooley being threatened by Whitey. Dirty Dersh we know was in the background of the get Billy movement and urged the prosecutors on. By the way, we are almost half way through December and Kelly is still trying to find out who made the telephone call – what do you think is going on there.

      2. I’ve written on Fitzpatrick. He was also part of the get Billy club and gave the Globe information that Whitey was an informant. He never should have been indicted. None of what he testified to was material to the trial – he was just – what is it called — oh, yes, bloviating — which also was a disease that affected John Connolly and may be part of the water that is drunk at FBI training grounds at Quantico.

      3. I’ve written before that the Syrian refugees should have been settled in their own country behind two American Army divisions with full cooperation of Jordan and Israel which should have moved slowly into Syria and brought the refugees behind them and brought about the ouster of Assad. There was no Islamic State in existence at the time. If we are at war we should act like we are at war.

      I read a quote recently that the “FBI are the Warriors who Come onto the Battlefield after the Shooting has Stopped and Bayonet the wounded.” Its agents were not involved in the shoot outs. They took over afterward the battle was over, sent out an “evidence recovery team” which looking at inspired little confidence, are now searching a pond because it is there and not because it has any evidence anything was put in it. It’s all acting time and the FBI loves to act and – I’ll say it again because it is the word of the day – bloviate. The FBI will never be an effective law enforcement agency because it is being minutely directed by the director who is trying to please the president.

      If we had an effective FBI this incident should never have happened. Why weren’t they alerted to this guy and his meeting with this woman in Pakistan? How come no one seemed to think it unusual that a woman in a burka and a bearded man were practicing firing AK-47s? If the FBI agents spent less time in front of a mirror mumbling “mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the best law enforcement agency of all” and more time being proactive in seeking out people already radicalized, and not those who they radicalize with their informants, I’d feel a lot more comfortable.

      1. Matt, Your views are not impartial because of the fact that you as a member of the generation and background of so many of the people you write about it seems as if it is ingrained in you to offer a positive outlook on Billy Bulger and John Connally. I do think Will McDonough was a legend as a journalist for the Boston Globe and later on CBS regarding NFL coverage.I have great respect for your education at BC and your lifes work in the Boston area. However, I came to your website for the behind the curtain on what kept Jimmy Bulger without one arrest from 1965 throught 2011. I have always thought and I still do that Billy Bulger and John Connolly have a lot of blood on their hands. How about giving us more background on the events that pertain to John Connolly going from a teacher at South Boston High to an FBI agent in Boston. Who helped him initially to get hired? What is your explanation for what happened in New York that directly led him back to Boston?

        1. Norwood:

          Who knows what bias lurks within the soul of a man. So my protestations of being as objective as I can will fall on deaf ears. You too may not know how biased you are because your were predisposed to believe certain facts without evidence, for instance, you can point to nothing that Billy Bulger ever did that was wrong yet you want to believe that somewhere there is something.

          I’ve explained why Whitey was not arrested. From 1965 to 1975 he was not being protected by anyone but he was not (other than suggested by Martorano who was also not arrested for the matters he implicates Whitey in nor were any other of the criminals) involved in criminal activity. From 1975 on he was protected by Connolly which was what Connolly was supposed to do for Top Echelon informants. There is no mystery to this. If the FBI is protecting you then you’re chances of not being arrested for crimes increases to the point of near 100%.

          Connolly was a teacher in 1968 – that was the year the deferment for teachers ended and he needed to find a spot where he could go – his father was friends with the U.S. Speaker McCormick – he called him and the Speaker spoke to J. Edgar and Connolly was in the FBI. Billy did not have the clout as a lowly member of the Massachusetts house of representatives to help him.

          Connolly hung around the L Street bathhouse where he was a life guard. He knew all the guys that went there. He knew Salemme personally. He saw him on 3rd Avenue and arrested him. He got back to Boston because his dad was ill and he wanted to get transfered here. The Speaker was again able to pull the strings. What’s the big mystery?

      2. Matt,

        Curious how you came by this letter.

        Will McDonough always told it like it was. On everything. You could bank on what Will reported. This letter only increases my esteem. Miss his voice.

        Thanks so much for sharing.

        1. Roger:

          I had a copy of the letter shortly after the Connolly sentencing but until I delved more deeply into the matter and happened to read it again as I tried to organize my time I never appreciated how much wisdom it contained.

  5. Hi Matt and how did Salemme, Flemmi and Bulger know when to leave Boston to escape being indicted?

    What is your understanding of Paul Rico? As in the media he is shown to be a bad agent who was involved in shady things with Barboza and the Flemmi brothers.

    Do you think that Larry Baione ordered the murder of the Bennett brothers?

    1. David:

      Good questions – I don’t know if I could answer them correctly but I’ll give it a stab.

      Weeks said as a result of meeting Connolly he told Whitey on December 3 that the indictments were coming down over the holidays and that is why he fled. That is nonsense. Whitey had been coming and going all through 1994 when the grand jury was sitting and it was obvious he was a target with his buddies. Weeks said he told Flemmi but Flemmi said he had his own source.

      Connolly could have tipped off Whitey (but not through Weeks) directly – it could have been by others who were looking out for him – no one outside of Weeks ever established Connolly knew the dates of the indictment – Weeks needed to put himself into the role to get his deal because the feds needed an act within the 5 years statute of limitations so that it could bring in everything that went back for decades by alleging a continuing conspiracy.

      Salemme according to the testimony met Flemmi at his wife’s house on January 6, 1995. He testify Connolly said when he met him months earlier that he would tip him off but never said that he did. He said when he met Flemmi he was told by Flemmi that the indictments were coming down on the 10th. Wherever Flemmi was getting his information, which was correct, he was not getting it from the DOJ or FBI for on the 5th warrants had already issued. Dick Schneiderhan had a connection in the US attorney’s office and it was likely he gave the information to Flemmi. That Flemmi and Salemme were still in the area gives lie to idea Connolly was giving out the information.
      Anyway, Flemmi was grabbed on the night he warned Salemme, Salemme took off after his wife told him that his house was surrounded by federals. He was caught a few months later.

      Rico? He hung around with Flemmi, Salemme, and the bunch but that was the job he was supposed to do. If he was as bad as Flemmi and Salemme suggest — he would never have been able to develop cases against Raymond Patriarca and Gerry Angiulo. So I think he was a good cop who the gangsters turned on with the help of their attorneys to make him look bad. The story of his involvement in the Wheeler murder is preposterous. Martorano and Flemmi tell a story of going to visit him after Wheeler was murdered at his place of business. Do you think an experienced FBI guy would meet at his office with two guys who had just been involved in murdering others? Doesn’t happen.

      I’m not sure what Baione’s beef would be with the Bennett brothers. I read that Wimpy was in good with Raymond L.S. but that might have cut no ice with Larry. Larry was close with Salemme and Flemmi – sort of anyway – and there is a chance he might have not liked Wimpy’s closeness to Raymond.

      1. Hi Matt,

        Couple of points on this post:
        -Agree that most likely scenario is Connolly tips Whitey directly. Benji too arrogant and/or stupid to leave in time.
        -Rico…disagree. Think he was as dirty as the day is long,…and that’s how he made cases against Raymond and Gerry. What about the story about Rico letting Buddy McLean hide out at his house? credible?
        -Larry may not have had a beef with Wimpy or his brothers…but when two local Roxbury Italian up and comers like Benji & Frankie offer to wipe out the trio and bring the operation and it’s earnings into the fold….of course he loved the idea.


        R. N.

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