Whitey Bulger’s Handler John Connolly’s Case is Unique to American Jurisprudence

Retired FBI Special Agent John J. Connolly, Jr. (no relation  to me or to the Patriot’s  right guard #63 Dan Connolly) sits in a Florida prison in Chipley, Florida.   Chipley is just a bit off Route 10 about half way between Pensacola and Tallahassee.   Connolly spent his sixties in a federal prison doing a 121 month sentence which he wrapped up on June 28, 2011 just as he slipped into his seventies.  He celebrated his 72 birthday in Chipley.  He was Whitey Bulger’s handler for the FBI.

You’ve all read he was a corrupt FBI agent and probably accepted that as a fact and moved on.  I went to his trial and was satisfied with the outcome.  I thought the media was pushing it a little bit with its statement calling him corrupt but let it pass for literary license.  The reason I thought it an overstatement or simplification was it left the impression that Connolly in his relationship with Whitey was found to have done some real bad things.

The charges against Connolly broke out into two parts: things he did while a FBI agent when he handled Whitey, and those he did after he had retired.  Get this: he was acquitted of everything he did as a FBI agent except for giving a case of wine with a thousand dollars to his supervisor, Agent John Morris, as a gift from Whitey.  He was acquitted of all the serious charges connecting him with wrongfully giving information to Whitey that resulted in harm to others.  One of those charges he was acquitted of was giving information to Whitey about John Callahan who was murdered in Fort Lauderdale by John Martorano.

Now something quite out of the normal happened to Connolly —  it wasn’t that he was indicted in Florida for the matter the Boston jury acquitted him of making him face the same charges twice.  That’s unusual.  But what I’m talking about is something else.  Something that rarely happens in this country.  He was tried by a state jury for acts performed as a federal agent.

The normal thing that happens if a state thinks of indicting a federal agent for acts performed while working for the federal government (which almost never happens) is the federal government will rush into federal court to stop the state from proceeding.  Now consider Connolly’s case.  Never mind rushed, no one ever walked into federal court to stop the prosecution even though the act for which he was being indicted was performed while he was a FBI agent.

That’s bad enough but think of this, one of the main prosecutors in Connolly’s Florida case was a federal prosecutor who went to Miami to assist in his trial.  Without exaggeration, this is the first time this ever happened in the history of the United States.  And you want to know something, as far as I know, no one, not even Connolly’s lawyers raised a peep about it.

I’ve written before on this issue mainly discussing the FBI’s failure to back up Connolly and the failure to determine the parameters of a FBI Agent’s duties with respect to handling top echelon informants who are known to be murderers.  I’ve mentioned how Connolly’s appeal was given short shrift by the Florida Appeals court which refused to write a decision telling us why Connolly’s solid legal arguments were wrong.  I’ve written how upside down it seems that Connolly will die in jail and the people with multiple murders on their hands walk free.

By the way I’m not a fan of John Connolly or perhaps I should say the FBI in its use of Whitey.  But as I said the other day when I wrote about Martorano, I do get exorcised when I see a what I believe is an injustice.  I have to throw Connolly’s Florida trial and his present imprisonment into that category because it is so unique and the punishment so out of line with historical precedent.

4 thoughts on “Whitey Bulger’s Handler John Connolly’s Case is Unique to American Jurisprudence

  1. Wyshak seems to have spent the last several years gathering material for his book at the same time he pursues a personal vendetta. He had no business prosecuting a state case in Florida. As you stated, it is completely without precedent. He must not have a very full plate here in Boston if he could afford to spend four months ( not sure of the time frame…may have been longer) basically doing nothing for the office that pays him. Not to mention the cost. As far as I know, from an article in the globe, in which he happily detailed his heroism, he, Foley and at least one DEA agent spent the entire length of the trial living in Miami on the taxpayers dime. Add that to the money that could have been used to recompense the victims families that the government ” feels so bad” about. If they could afford to be without him for all that time, maybe they could trim a position from the USAO’s. Budget. Fortunately, they can do it because no one there was hired due to who they know. Unlike that awful, corrupt probation department they’re prosecuting.

    1. Wyshak does seem to have a far reach. There’s no doubt in my mind he did a great job in unraveling the Whitey Empire. Certain aspects of it I disagree with like the structure of the deals with some of the criminals but that’s to be expected. I find his pursuit of Connolly a little misguided — not so much the Boston trial but the Florida part. Wyshak should know that it wasn’t all on Connolly’s shoulders but there were many more FBI agents in leadership positions who enabled him. Their actions have all gotten a pass and we are suppose to make believe Connolly was running wild behind everyone’s back. I keep suggesting the real issue in Connolly’s case is the rights and duties of an FBI agent handling top echelon informants which everyone seems to want to run away from.
      You pick up on the idea of a personal vendetta. I’ve thought that at times but give Wyshak the benefit of the doubt. No prosecutor should handle a case for personal reasons. No one should be able to use the tools of government to get personal revenge.(Wasn’t Bush 43 supposed to have started the Iraq war because Saddam tried to kill his father?)
      I am surprised Connolly never defended himself with the Supremacy Clause argument. I’m sure his lawyers have a reason for doing it but I can’t figure it like many other things that seem a little out of kilter in my experience in the whole situation surrounding Whitey. That’s what makes it interesting.
      You’re right about all the time the Wyshak team spent in Florida. They had to hire a truck to bring all the files down there and they lived courtesy of the US government prosecuting a US agent on behalf of a state.
      I was surprised to see him behind the absurd indictments of the probation officials. Charging them with RICO is far beyond the pale. They were hiring people and giving preference to people with contacts. That’s as American as apple pie and baseball. Every change of administration in DC throughout the 19th Century produced thousands upon thousands of people flocking down there with their connection letters looking for jobs. The Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice of the Court, and other influential politicians are trying to help people out every day. Do you think there was any influence used when the son of Chief Justice Wilkins of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court. Wyshak now wants to make the decision that there were more qualified candidates they should have hired. I didn’t know that was part of his job.
      I had a couple of cases with him after I left the DA’s office. They weren’t much – one involving getting an immunity and having a witness testify before the grand jury; the other where he was way off base attempting to question an ADA’s discretionary handling of a case. I had forgotten the latter incident until lately because it only involved several telephone calls. I suppose for me, although he did a good job in Whitey’s case, he walks too close to the edge in others. Is it because he is writing a book or trying to walk in lock step with the Boston Globe or some other reason I don’t know. Thanks for writing.

  2. The trial of Connolly in Boston may have been fair ( doubtful). The sentence was unjust(10 years). The trial in Florida was a travesty. He had as much to do with the Callahan murder as Foley and O’Donovan had to do with Bishop’s killings in Alabama. Can a future state prosecutor indict a sitting AG or a sitting FBI Director? Could he indict a President for acts committed while in office? Connolly only did what he was instructed to do by the FBI. It is shameful the way the Feds abandoned Connolly even after he was found NOT GUILTY in Boston. He was cleared of leaking to the gangsters and cleared of taking payoffs from the gangsters.2.What is abundantly clear is that Wyshak had no business prosecuting the case in Florida. That Wyshak is totally dishonest( look at the Mrs. Tierney and Mrs. Gianelli cases). The fix was in in both of those cases. Connolly was found NOT GUILTY of the two most serious charges in the Sunshine state but was convicted on a lesser count thrown in at the last minute. Had Connolly prevailed on all counts Wyshak would then have tried to tie him to the Wheeler murder in Oklahoma.A special prosecutor is needed to look into all these irregularities.What are the limits of state power as it applies to official acts of federal employees? Whose betrayal was more complete the FBI of Connolly or the State Police of Naimovich? What of the sinister relationship of Wyshak to Martorano? Nixon’s connection to Halderman was described as darkness reaching for darkness.Would that apply to the prosecutor and the Gucci hitman?

    1. Connolly didn’t appeal some of his charges so he thought his Boston trial was fair and the sentence was in the probation guidelines. A jury found him guilty in Florida. Any prosecutor can indict anyone but if he/she indicts a fed then the feds usually make it go away. See post today, Connolly has yet to bring up the issue you mention – whether he was doing what he should have been doing. Connolly was not cleared of passing on wine and $1000 from the gangsters to Morris. I’ve always thought Wyshak honest – it was up to Connolly to question his right to prosecute him which he apparently didn’t do. There was no way Wyshak would have connected him to Wheeler, he wasn’t in the loop at that point.
      Thre is no need for a special prosecutor – Connolly has to raise the issue which he has failed to do as I note today, something that continually surprises me. The FBI never wants to examine its self and likes to hide things – the FBI is more culpable by a long shot. Martorano’s relationship to Wyshak is he got a good – great – deal from him or at least his co-worker Durham. Beyond that I know nothing more of it. I suggest Wyshak has done everything in the clear light of day. It’s time for Connolly to start defending himself in legal forums. If he doesn’t, he has no one to blame but himself.

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