Judge: Connolly Jury Can Hear About Mob Murders
by J.M. Lawrence
Wednesday, April 10, 2002
Swayed by secret evidence linking former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. to the Bulger gang's murders of three witnesses and a Tulsa millionaire, a judge yesterday changed course and ruled jurors will learn about the hits.
“We believe the judge made the right decision, we think there was no basis to rule otherwise,” U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said after U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro dealt a blow to Connolly's defense.
Tauro, who had previously called the killings “extremely prejudicial” since Connolly is not charged with murder, offered little explanation for his reversal.
The judge reviewed special prosecutors' “proffer of evidence” outlining Connolly connections to the murders of Brian Halloran, Richard Castucci, John Callahan and Roger Wheeler and denied eight defense motions seeking to destroy the case.
Prosecutors filed the document under seal, citing concerns about an ongoing grand jury investigation.
The retired agent, who faces trial May 6, appeared stoic. In a brief comment, he maintained that he chased criminals for 22 years in the way the FBI instructed him.
“I'm looking forward to people seeing I did nothing more than my job,” said Connolly, 61, who is married and has three children.
Connolly's defense attorney, Tracy A. Miner, said she will file several additional motions before trial and will continue to try to exclude the murders from being introduced.
“I'm still hoping they don't come in,” she said.
Connolly faces a nine-count indictment charging him with conspiring with James “Whitey” Bulger over two decades, racketeering and obstructing justice for tipping the Bulger gang to pending indictments in 1995.
The government's conspiracy case charges that Connolly told the Bulger gang when its enemies began offering evidence to the government.
Castucci, a Revere nightclub owner, was killed and dumped in his trunk in 1976.
Halloran was murdered in April 1982 soon after talking about the Bulger gang's role in the afternoon execution of World Jai Alai owner Roger Wheeler at the wheel of his Cadillac in 1981.
And Callahan's body was found in his trunk at Miami International Airport in June 1982 after he had agreed to meet with Connecticut prosecutors investigating World Jai Alai.
The judge yesterday said prosecutors can introduce evidence about the Bulger gang's “suspected skim” at World Jai Alai, where former Boston FBI agent H. Paul Rico was in charge of security.
Bulger gang hit man John V. Martorano has confessed to hunting down Wheeler in Tulsa at the Southern Hills Country Club and shooting him in the parking lot. He has agreed to testify for the government.
Martorano is “the Rosetta stone” to unlocking the secrets behind the government's alliance with Connolly's notorious informant Bulger, one source said.
Connolly's defense is looking for assistance from another informant whom the agent handled while developing evidence that brought down the Patriarca crime family in the 1980s - Angelo “Sonny” Mercurio.
Tauro told the government to help set up a meeting between Mercurio, who is in the Witness Protection Program, and Connolly's defense team.
Mercurio, now in his late 60s, helped the FBI install the historic bug of a mob induction ceremony in October 1989 in Medford that captured mafiosi pricking their fingers and taking a blood oath to organized crime.
But it's Mercurio's health woes, not security concerns, holding up the meeting, Miner noted.
Attorneys for Wheeler's family called the judge's rulings an important development for the families of Bulger victims who have filed multimillion-dollar civil suits against the government.
“It's helpful to all of those families who want to unearth all the facts and circumstances,” said Frank A. Libby Jr., who represents Wheeler's widow and children. “We don't care where the truth comes out as long as it does come out.”
Tauro also denied a defense motion to keep the government from using Connolly's own story of his career against him.
Prosecutors can introduce a manuscript Connolly created that is now held under seal in court files, the judge ruled.
Connolly has tried to peddle the story to Hollywood.
The former agent, who claims his legal bills have left him broke, received court approval last month for taxpayers to fund his attorney. His affidavit describing his finances also is under seal.