There are some people who think former FBI John Connolly got a raw deal. You won’t find many of them in the media. I’ve suggested much of Connolly’s problem is due to him not speaking up when he should have done so. I’m told if he did he would have somehow gotten buried by the prosecution team. Well, it seems he could not be worse than he is now if he had gone down fighting in the ring rather than shouting from outside the ropes as he has done, continually maintaining he did nothing wrong — that his job was to give protection to top echelon informants who everyone on his job knew were murderers.
I’ve also suggested is those who want to correct the injustice they believe Connolly has suffered would be much better off if they painted with a much narrower brush. What I mean by that is they should stop complaining about what happened in the trial in Boston. They find fault with Judge Joseph Tauro, the prosecution team, the prosecutor behind the unraveling of Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi’s criminal enterprise, Fred Wyshak, the deals the government made with the gangsters to to get them to testify, and even the jury itself.
With respect to the Boston case, all of their complaints are misplaced and unhelpful to Connolly. I haven’t heard Connolly or his counsel complain about the way the government tried the case or the court managed the trial or the jury rendering a wrong verdict. .
The trial judge, Joseph Tauro is a fair, intelligent and upright judge, one of the best to sit in Boston’s federal court. The prosecutors Durham, Boyle and Shepherd presented the evidence in a professional manner. Fred Wyshak is a skillful, honest and hard charging prosecutor. As far as the impact of using gangster testimony, it had little outcome on the trial. Some suggest that Flemmi should never have been used in Boston. He wasn’t. He hadn’t agreed to cooperate by that point. He only testified in Florida.
The trial was so expertly managed and the jury so attentive that Connolly was acquitted on the most serious charges. The jury rejected the gangster testimony that related to any act Connolly did while an FBI agent. The charges they found him guilty of were all corroborated by non-gangster evidence. All but one, the bribery of his supervisor, occurred when he was retired from the FBI. Some happened in December of 1994 or January 1995 when he was convicted of telling the gangsters to flee; the others in 1998 around the time of the Wolf hearings.
It is suggested that the sentence was overly harsh. Judge Tauro imposed upon him a sentence of eight to ten years. I believe it reflected Judge Tauro’s belief that Connolly’s sending of an anonymous letter to Judge Mark Wolf seeking to undermine the hearings involving Martorano, Flemmi, Salemme, gangsters and murderers all, was a strike at the heart of the judicial system. The letter stated in part that the evidence before the judge was gained illegally causing Judge Wolf to hold additional hearings. Those actions could not be tolerated, especially from a former law enforcement officer.
Added to that was the jury found Connolly passed on secret information to Weeks known to only four FBI agents about the expected date the indictments against Whitey, Flemmi and others which gave them an opportunity to flee. No one has a First Amendment right to disclose secret law enforcement information to gangsters for malicious purposes.
These supporters of Connolly should accept the fact that he was rightfully convicted of the charges and the sentence was harsh but justified. Alleging that Connolly was innocent only serves to muddy the issue and take away from what I believe should be their true grievance.
This is that Connolly was convicted by a state jury in Florida of having a connection with the murder of John Callahan. That jury, unlike the Boston jury, believed the testimony of the gangsters. One additional gangster, Flemmi, who had direct contact with Connolly was added to the gangster lineup.
In a sense the government got two bites out of the apple. Some suggest that is not supposed to happen. We do have an adage “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” You may have heard it before. It’s in the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution.
An article explaining its history suggests that those words don’t exactly mean what they say. The Supreme Court has come up with a concept of dual sovereignty. The United States and the individual states are different entities so each one can take a bite out the apple. I know it is still two bites but because they are two separate sovereigns it supposedly makes a difference. (If it doesn’t make sense to you keep in mind what my lawyer mentor FJD said to me, “remember, the law is what the judges say it is.”)
The idea behind it is a distrust of the states — a worry that the states will give someone a quick trial and acquit the person just to prevent the federal government for trying that person. It brings back memories of the acquittal by white juries of the white killers of blacks in the some Southern states. Years later they were convicted on the federal side.
My position on this is what happened in Boston to Connolly was the way it should have happened. After he retired the evidence was clear that Connolly aligned himself with two gangsters, Weeks and Flemmi, to assist other gangsters. That in itself is not criminal but his actions in trying to help them were.
I don’t however believe what happened after Boston was proper. I’ll explain why tomorrow and tell why Connolly should not be in jail.