John Martorano Murders

John Martorano was born December 13, 1940. His brother James was born a year later on December 10, 1941. John was a tough guy… until he started looking at having to do prison time.

Back in the late Seventies, Martorano had been caught by the Plymouth District Attorney’s office in a wiretap of a bookie operation. Martorano was facing prison. Fortunately for Martorano, he had access to a corrupt State Police Trooper, Dick Schneiderhan, who worked in the attorney general’s office.  Schneiderhan let Martorano know that the state police monitoring the wiretap had violated the minimization order of the judge who gave the warrant for the wiretap. They had listened beyond the time authorized.

The violation may have led to the evidence gained from the wiretap being suppressed. The prosecutor, Bill O’Malley, did not want to take that chance. The defense lawyer and Martorano did not want to take the chance that it would not be suppressed. The two parties arrived at a deal giving Martorano a slap on the hand. He was committed to three months in the house of corrections. Martorano did not like being incarcerated. The next time he sensed that was going to jail, he went on the lam to Florida. He remained there for sixteen years hiding out from a federal warrant that sought him to answer to an indictment for race fixing.

When he was finally arrested on that charge, he would find himself faced with other charges involving racketeering. The charges could have put Martorano away for up to twenty years. Thinking it over, Martorano decided to turn state’s evidence to avoid that fate.

Martorano wrote in a book referring to himself, “It’s my belief that good men can do bad things.” His use of the words “bad things” is his euphemism for the murder of at least twenty people.

He went on to write: “You may not believe this, but I’m a religious person. I’ve confessed my sins, and I believe I have been forgiven by God if not by anyone else.” You would think that Richard Speck and Charles Manson are waiting for him in his idea of heaven.

His sins were many. When a man who commits twenty murders thinks he is a good man, you can only be amazed at man’s ability to fool himself. You wonder why then are we executing people who commit one or two murders if they are good men?

Martorano, himself an informant, tried to justify his murders of other informants by writing, “I always felt an informant should be stopped at any opportunity. As an honest man, it is your duty, your obligation, to stop them.” The macabre mind of this gangster demonstrates a belief that “honest men” are doing good by murdering people they believe are informants. Yet, the last thing Martorano, who became an informant, would want is someone killing him.

Worse, he somehow justifies his being an informant by suggesting he is not an informant. That is even though everything he did epitomized the action of an informant –  he made deals to give information and testify against others solely to help himself after living a life of lies, deceit, dishonesty and murders.

The sole reason Martorano became an informant was explained by Frank Salemme who testified in a deposition about a conversation he had with Martorano: “I said, John, they saved you, what are you doing this for, in case Flemmi or Bulger or both of them decide to turn and put the finger on you, you’re beating them to the punch.”

Salemme and others knew that Martorano was desperate to turn on those who he had worked with over many years so he could help himself out. Martarano convinced himself he was a good man, so it obviously was easy to convince himself that the reason he decided to become an informant was that he did not like informants. He had learned that both Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi had been top echelon FBI informants.

As part of working with the prosecutors, Martorano was required to set out the crimes in which he had been involved in the past. If Martorano described his crimes, he would get a pass on all that he admitted doing. As best as we can tell, Martorano gave evidence on his involvement in twenty murders. Whether these are all his murders is hard to tell.

He may not have revealed murders involving gross brutality where there were no witnesses. He may not have wanted to admit murdering women so as not to run afoul of the gangster code that tough guys don’t murder women: he was suspected of murdering Margaret Sylvester and Kathryn Murphy. He may have claimed to have murdered someone another person murdered to protect that person.

He may not have taken responsibility for a murder that he committed which may have adversely impacted a deal he was making. He may have murdered James “Jake” Leary in Florida. He could not admit that because Florida was already giving him a pass on the John Callahan murder and asking for another one would not sit well with the Florida authorities.  Martorano was a professional criminal and liar, so it is hard to believe anything he says without corroborating evidence. Too many times evidence points to Martarano lying.

Martorano was a loose member of the Roxbury gang. He got involved in criminal activity as a result of his father owning a restaurant/barroom/after-hours joint called Luigi’s in what was then called Boston’s Combat Zone. It was the place where hookers, girlie shows, pimps, dope dealers, hoodlums, fences, and others found comfort among their low life acquaintances. His father would open another joint Basin Street South on the Roxbury/South End line.

Martorano would know all the wise guys. He would eventually become friendly with Jimmy Flemmi and then his brother Steve Flemmi in the early 1960s. He was not into their businesses but stayed busy with his dad’s joint and his own murders. Martorano, in both his book and testimony for the federal prosecutors, structured his murders in the best light possible which the prosecutors accepted without question. The prosecutors knew the deal they made with Martorano, a murderer of at least 20 people, was so outrageous. They said the deal involve his cooperation against drug dealers from South Boston. Martorano in his book scoffed at that saying he had no information on those people.

Martorano was represented by two criminal defense lawyers considered by many as the top two in Massachusetts who had nationwide reputations as the lawyers to seek out when in criminal trouble. It is apparent that duo intimidated the prosecution team.  He was able to secure for himself an extraordinary deal. He would spend 12 years in prison and would have immunity for all murders he admitted to committing.

The prosecutors only required him to testify against four people. They freed him from testifying against anyone who was involved in any murders with him. The prosecutor justified this outrageous deal, about 6 months per admitted murder, saying that the murders would not have been solved if they did not give him that deal. That was untrue. Because as Salemme said, Martorano was just beating the others to the punch. In other words others could implicate him in these murders.

It also bothered me giving a guy a deal because he admitted to murders. What good is knowing a person committed a murder if no appropriate punishment is attached to the crime? Can you imagine a lawyer saying to the DA, “my client will confess to the murder of that little seven-year-old Jane Doe which you have been unable to solve for five years. He will also show you where he buried her. That is on the condition you agree to give him six months in jail.”


  1. If John Belushi isn’t the perfect actor to play Martorano, no one is.

    Reading through these posts, it still amazes me at the number of pure scumbags there are in our world. Not “the” world. “Our” world.

  2. The late Joe Oteri was the lawyer to the Flemmi brothers. Did he represent John Martorano? And don’t neglect Jimmy, the other Martarano brother murderer.

  3. That “plea bargain” was the beginning of the DOJs fall from
    grace which continues today
    unfortunately. It won’t recover in our lifetime. This is a perilous time
    for our country.