Whitey: The Joe Berlinger Film: Whitey the Informant – The Facts and The Dispute

() wise owlWe know for sure some things. At that time in 1975 Whitey had to be in contact with John Connolly. We also know that an FBI file can be opened indicating a person is an informant without the person’s knowledge and even if the person is not an informant. For instance, back in 1971 FBI Agent Dennis Condon opened a file listing Whitey as an informant but when pressured by headquarters to provide more information on him, he closed out the file. There is no doubt he was not an informant back then. We have no way of knowing how many ghost informant files exist in the FBI.

Here is one thing we know for sure. Stephen Flemmi was an informant. He had an FBI informant file like Whitey. He admitted it in court. He had been one since the mid-1960s.

In the documentary Whitey’s attorney Jay Carney tells us, after we hear from Whitey saying that he isn’t an informant, that this is not a typical criminal trial where the issue of guilt is contested. He says Whitey knows he will be found guilty. He will spend the rest of his life in prison and die there.

Carney says this doesn’t matter to him. What does matter is that this is his last opportunity to tell us that he wasn’t an informant. As an aside, Whitey wants to point out there is more corruption in the federal government law enforcement than you could ever imagine.

Then, surprisingly, Whitey will let the opportunity slip by. He declines to testify when he had the chance. How does that make any sense?

Dave Boeri in the documentary tells us correctly that the issue in the trial whether he was an informant is totally irrelevant. Lawyer Carney has told us the evidence will show that Whitey was never an informant. The defense would bring in a couple of FBI agents who worked with Connolly at the time to suggest they saw him looking at the informant files of other agents which did not sit well with them.

Whitey’s other lawyer Hank Brennan will spend lots of time during the examination of a witness showing that reports in Whitey Bulger’s informant file were duplicates of reports found in the informant files of other FBI agents.

Prosecutor’s Wyshak’s unpersuasive retort was that when something of note happens then the FBI reaches out to all its informants. That meant there are apt to be duplicate reports. The the informants will be providing pretty much the same information. Wyshak was not bothered that it was word for word the same.

The documentary showed Attorney Brennan’s associate had worked her way through Bulger’s 700 page informant file. She had many of the pages tabbed. She pointed out one duplicate entry. We were left to assume there were more.

Prosecutor Wyshak countered her. He said 700 pages in Whitey’s file proves he was an informant; in return Attorney Brennan brings out Angela Clemente who has been investigating the FBI’s involvements with informants in New York City. She says in New York an FBI file on a Top Echelon informant like Whitey who has been around for 20 years should have between 55,000 up to 300,000 pages.

I wasn’t impressed with the comparison between New York City and Boston as it relates to informant files. Boston had as small Mafia group compared to the Five Families in New York that controlled some industries. Still even with that disparity if Whitey was an informant for about 16 years he did not provide much information. Less than a page worth of information each week. Even so, I don’t think the size of the file cuts one way or the other in determining a person’s status as an informant.

Carney talks about ongoing corruption among the federal people. Whether Whitey was an informant has nothing to do with that. I’ll explain that in greater detail when dealing with some of Attorney Brennan’s statements that try to explain why it does.

The issue of informant had nothing to do with the trial. Carney noted as much when he said the guilty verdicts are foregone conclusions. The time during the trial spent on the issue was a total waste. The jury was not going to be asked whether he was an informant. It seemed the prosecution in its intent to deprive Whitey of any speck of dignity got sucked into the defense lawyers’ trap by making something of it.

The judge should have stopped both sides. There was no relevancy to his status as an informant at the trial. But there is for us who are interested in the subject of the Whitey saga. We are looking for an answer to a simple question: “was he an informant?”

There is no question Whitey had a close relationship with Connolly. Weeks told of their meetings. Agents John Morris and Nick Gianturco told how Connolly would arrive with Whitey and Stevie in the same car for dinners. Connolly had him meeting other FBI agents parading him around like the Stanley Cup.

We know the Boston SAC sat down with Whitey at a hotel for four hours at an airport hotel. Brennan would make much of his report. Whitey also was debriefed by Montinari. He agreed to meet ASAC Fitzpatrick at his Quincy condo. He and Flemmi dressed in suits at the FBI request so that their photographs could be sent down to Oklahoma at the time of the Wheeler murder investigation.

Kevin Cullin in the documentary said the FBI in Boston lied to the Oklahoma authorities when they said Whitey and Stevie’s alibis checked out. It actually was not a lie. Both men were in Boston when the murder happened. That is why they gladly provided their photographs.

Looking at the extensive cooperation Whitey gave the FBI one must ask why would he have done it if he were not an informant?

 

 

30 thoughts on “Whitey: The Joe Berlinger Film: Whitey the Informant – The Facts and The Dispute

  1. He was not an Informant ; Effectively he is an Agent . Understand this and you have THE SKELETON KEY TO JIMMY BULGER … All this rest is APOCRYPHA THEN AND NOW 🙂

  2. Hi Matt and what is the difference between a top echelon informant such as flemmi or Bulger and a cooperating witness such as Joe Barboza?

    What is your understanding of the car bombing of Barboza ‘s lawyer?

    How was Frank Salemme captured in New York?

    1. David,

      Generally, a CW is setting people up in an attempt to mitigate the charges/potential time served for a crime he/she has already been arrested for committing. A TEI is doing it for other reasons, usually money, but also for protection, to eliminate competition, etc

  3. I think it’s pretty clear that Bulger was an informant, even though it’s worth noting that he got much more out of his relationship with Connolly and Morris than they got from him. It you look at Morris’ testimony, he admits to taking $7,000 and a couple of cases of wine. What struck me about this was how trivial the payments were, given the level of protection that Bulger was getting from the FBI. I would say that $7,000 spread out over time was a big enough amount to dirty Morris up, while at the same time small enough to enable Morris to believe he wasn’t on the take. I think something similar happened with Connolly. I do not believe either of these men received large amounts of cash from Bulger.

    1. Dan:

      Stick with me and I’ll explore more of this. You are pretty much correct. Morris admitted taking money but at the time he never thought too much about it thinking (rationalizing) he could still do the job and this money was not affecting his ability to do it. He was also taking money and gifts from a guy from Chelsea named Berkowitz.

      Bulger got a ton of protection measured in value and not quantity. All he wanted, as he said, was to be alerted to something coming down against him; but he got much more than that which was the non cooperation of the FBI with other agencies against him.

  4. Complacent … Get outside of the box ; NOTHING is clear as matters Bulger. Whether he chooses to ” Clarify ” matters transparent to One who knows just what ” Youse” want to hear is left as always to ” His Inscrutable Agency ” as Herman Melville might have described it ; And never did 🙂

  5. David Fishwick, Let me answer your question regarding the top echelon informant and a “cooperating witness.” Basically, there are three types of informants [to include cooperating witnesses] First, you have a general informant who reports on a myriad of matters, but, who is not an associate with any criminal group; then you have the top echelon informant who is considered a higher-up in a criminal group, and lastly, you have a cooperating witness. This person usually provides information on a singular crime and will be testifying in a criminal trial. For example, Sammy the Bull Gravano, who testified against John Gotti, then he was placed in the witness protection program. I hope this makes sense to you. With regard to Frank Salemme’s arrest in New York City, his arrest was a direct result of the efforts of John Connolly. Connolly was stationed in the New York Office of the FBI and was aware that Frank Salemme was living in the city, exact location was not known. In any event, while in the company of two other FBI Agents, they were walking on Third Avenue when low and behold Frank Salemme walked by them. John recognized him immediately and effected his arrest. Good work on Connolly’s part. Now, the bombing of Attorney Fitzgerald’s car [Barboza’s attorney – I believe] was done by Stephen Flemmi and Frank Salemme; the bomb did not kill Fitzgerald, but, badly maimed him. I have to laugh that Frank Salemme said he had no animosity against John Connolly, what a crock. Salemme’s arrest cost him almost 17 years in prison for the bombing – no animosity? I will have more to say later once I finish reading Matt’s post.

    1. Dick:

      Cannot disagree with much of what you wrote but probably will as we go along if you comment again. I understood that there was a difference between cooperating witnesses and informants and the former were not considered informants. You include them as informants.

      You probably should have pointed out that Connolly would have known Salemme from the time he worked as a life guard at L Street and being around Southie. Some like to forget that he had no prior contact with him so they question his ability to pick him out walking down Third Avenue.

      Salemme as you know told another FBI informant that he was coached into what his testimony should be. He probably did not bear animosity against Connolly for his arrest since that is not usually the case with gangsters figuring the cop or agent is just doing his job. Where he does have animosity was that he blamed Connolly for his being shot outside the Pancake House in Saugus. He believed Mercurio who was one of Connolly’s top echelon informants told him about it and Connolly should have stopped it. That’s not to say that he would not also have been happy to jam Connolly in because he arrested him in New York City.

  6. Matt, you are insightful with most of your posts. In this regard, I have to admit that I did leave out that John Connolly did know Frank Salemme while he was a school teacher in South Boston. Both of them worked out together at the L Street Bath House, and that is where John first met Salemme. Moving forward, John was aware that Frank Salemme was residing in New York City, and he was alleged to be in the company of Joseph Minarcio [please excuse the spelling], who was a member of the Patriaca Family. Both were alleged to have shared an apartment in NYC at the time John effected Salemme’s arrest. John carried a picture of Frank Salemme with him and shared the picture with a lot of his close NYC buddies. John was made aware that Salemme was alleged to be residing in NYC and he was ever mindful of this information. Ironically, it was one of those days that luck was on his side and he spotted Salemme on the streets of NYC. After his arrest, I personally transported Salemme, in the company of John Connolly, to the federal lock up on the west side of Manhattan – referred to as the West Street lock-up. I have to admit, that when John approached me in the NYO FBI Office after processing Salemme, he asked me, what do you think? I said who is this man [Salemme] standing in front of me? Well, John replied by stating that this is Frank Salemme, a “hit man” from Boston. I looked at this individual and asked John “are you sure he is Salemme?” This man did not look anything resembling the wanted photograph of Frank Salemme. The man standing in front of me stood a man slimmed down and sporting an afro haircut. He looked more like a runner than an overweight thug wanted for murder and mayhem. But, a finger print expert rolled Salemme’s prints and compared them with the wanted poster bearing Salemme’s prints and declared, “John you got your man!” The rest is history. Shortly after this arrest was affected, John Connolly was transferred to the Boston office of the FBI as a reward for his capture of Salemme. His assignment in Boston resulted in John Connolly developing many TE’s and Bulger was one of his informants. End of this part of the story. Now, with regard to the attempted murder of Salemme by Sonny Murcurio [sp], it is believed that this shooting was committed by Vincent “The Animal” Ferriera [sp]. It is admittedly known from the trials and newspaper accounts that John did develop [cultivate] Murcurio as a TE. John Connolly was very talented in his pursuit of OC targets. I will post additional comments when appropriate.

  7. ★ If it looks like a slimmed down white guy jogger … and it walks like a …. does not say much … but talks casually while sporting an Afro … THEN … It is SENIOR walking down Third Ave. .. Now you’ve got it 🙂
    A truly interesting account of his booking nonetheless by correspondent.
    The notion that two patzers like enrico ponzo and Vincent ‘ Gigi ” Portalla ( aka Vincent Marino ) were organized enough to loop in Mercurio on their slap dash pancake hit on Senior takes a lot of syrup to digest.
    Yes Matt, it is true that much is open to understanding and being figured out … ACCORDING TO FACTS PRESENTED AND SO EASILY ACCEPTED THEY HAVE BECOME GOSPEL… THE CHURCH OF THE WINE OF MORRIS 🙂

  8. ★ The scenario of Senior’s booking having rolled to the melodramatic pronouncement JOHN, YOU’VE GOT YOUR MAN by booking Sergeant to Connolly does not sound right. Apparently Senior stood there rolling his eyes at the inevitable conclusion ( Sarge was also a ON THE SPOT fingerprint comparison and matching expert btw) of his prints being rolled. He knew Connolly screwed him. Why go through this colorful, but unlikely scene at the local constabulary.

  9. ★ ” Morris took money, but at the same time he never thought … ( rationalizing ) …”
    Proceed from this privileged position of access to disgraced and disgraceful FBI Agent John Morris’ inner mental contents and thought processes and you are not just CHANNELING or WHISPERING Morris.
    Instead you are stating as fact, not speculation, that which only Morris does or does not know. Matty and the Gospel singers rock the rafters certainly, as you are a very capable WHISPERER; You have figured much out, but not All. Inspired choruses by the believers in this case however will not lead to THE TRUE FAITH. …. Just the facts Sir … Just the facts 🙂 …. ( And just WTF are ALL THE FACTS as regard JB .

  10. Matt
    Why would agent Condon open a file on Bulger as being an informant and then backtrack once pressured?

    I still think it was a poor strategy by Carney and Brennan to concede openly that Bulger was guilty of many of the charges. Of course, what little do I know after looking at how much money both Brennan and Carney were paid from the Bulger case. WOW

    1. Jerome:

      Carney and Brennan are good lawyers. If they did not get paid someone else would have received the same amount. We have this thing called the Constitution that says people charged with serious crimes should be represented. However, in federal court the more evil the criminal is the better representation they get. What Whitey should have gotten was public counsel but since all the Mafia get the best lawyers appointed for them I guess the court figured Whitey was bad enough to get good lawyers. On the other hand a guy like Probation Officer O’Brien who never committed a crime other than what he was charged with was required to use public counsel even though he had an attorney who represented him on the state side who got him an acquittal.

      Condon did what he did because it looked good to have informant files. Maybe he figured Whitey would come around down the road. Who knows why some FBI agents do what they do?

      Carney and Brennan had no choice but to admit to Whitey’s guilt. It was a way to try to give themselves some credibility in front of the jury so they could press for a jury nullification type case where the jury figures pox on all their houses and finds the guy not guilty despite the evidence. Had they not done so it would not have made a difference in any event, by the third day of trial after seeing the photographs of the state police of the people at Lancaster Street and looking at a table full of guns Whitey had not chance for an acquittal.

  11. In my view, Whitey’s biggest “value” to the FBI is simply to keep Flemmi as an informant. By turning away Whitey, they may have ended up turning away Flemmi and thus the majority of their information.

    Flemmi must have somehow convinced Whitey the benefits of being an informant without really giving up a information that would hurt them. I doubt Connolly or any other FBI agent could have swayed Whitey. It must have been Flemmi who did it.

    My biggest problem with Whitey saying that he wasn’t an informant is that he was present at those meetings where Flemmi was giving information to Connolly. So Whitey knew that Flemmi was an informant. Whitey was always there. There were no meetings with just Flemmi and Connolly. So Whitey obviously was there when Flemmi gave up the information. So Whitey cannot say he wasn’t an informant.

    1. Brian:

      Can’t say I disagree with much of what you say. We don’t know for sure if there were meetings or telephone calls between Flemmi and Connolly when Whitey was not around. We are led to believe Connolly never met alone with Flemmi but we don’t know that for certain. Flemmi could have had a side deal with Connolly on some things. But it would be more likely what you state that they all met together or it was Connolly and Whitey. Whitey can say he did not know the FBI had an informant file on him; he cannot say he never gave the FBI information. The value of the information may not have been much in his mind but when it was combined with other information it might have helped.

  12. At some point during the trial, Whitey’s lawyer, Carney, was questioning a witness. I forget which one. However Carney said that it was Pat Nee in the backseat of the hit car.

    Whitey must have told Carney it was Pat Nee. By giving up Pat Nee, this makes Whitey a snitch, informant, etc.

    Only Whitey and Weeks knew it was Pat Nee. And Weeks wasn’t saying anything because he and Nee are friends.

    So Whitey told Carney that it was Pat Nee in the backseat and Carney mentioned it at trial.

    That proves that Whitey was a snitch.

    1. Brian:

      Flemmi said he met with Whitey and Weeks after the shooting of Halloran and he was told that Nee was in the back seat which of course he was. So Whitey did not have to give him up. Certainly Weeks gave him up but he made a deal with the prosecutors that he would not have to testify against him and he could lie and say the guy had a ski mask on. There is no chance in the world any prosecutor who was old enough to shave would have bought the ski mask story. And to think they indicted Fitzpatrick for lying.

      Another point, I would not call a guy a snitch if he told his lawyer the truth. The lawyer is bound not to disclose it. If he can get it out of a witness that is not his client who is disclosing it but the witness.

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