You’d hardly know it from the wall-to-wall coverage of the George Zimmerman case, but there’s another trial going on that’s at least as worthy of national attention. That’s the 32-count federal racketeering indictment against James “Whitey” Bulger, a Boston mob kingpin linked to at least 19 murders, captured in 2011 after 16 years on the lam.
Bulger, a former “Top Echelon Informant” for the FBI, is a monster, but he’s hardly the only villain in a story where “gangster government” leaves the realm of metaphor. As Boston Globe reporters Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy explain in their riveting new biography of Bulger, the Irish mobster ruled South Boston for nearly two decades, “protected by the arrogance and corruption of an FBI and a Justice Department that tolerated murder as an acceptable price of doing effective law enforcement.”
Federal rules ban cameras in most criminal trials, which is one reason the Bulger case hasn’t gotten the national attention it deserves. So Court TV junkies missed last Wednesday’s explosive exchange between the Bulger and his former henchman-turned-federal-witness, Kevin Weeks, when Weeks called Bulger a “rat:”
Whitey: “You suck!”;
Weeks: “F—k you!” (So much for the fabled “gift of gab.”)
But the public’s missing something more valuable than mob drama: “This trial is not just about organized crime,” writes the Boston Herald’s Margery Eagan, it involves “the corruption of the federal government — the same government banning you from this trial — in the form of a disgraced FBI. It’s a civics lesson worthy of us all.”
Indeed, from 1975 to 1990, in its quest to bring down the Italian mob, the FBI’s Boston office became partner in crime to Bulger’s “Winter Hill Gang.” A 2004 House Committee on Government Reform report, “Everything Secret Degenerates,” found that “a number of men were murdered because they came to the government with information incriminating informants” and the FBI tipped them off.
“When you give us information on one person and they got killed,” then a second, and a third, Bulger’s partner Steven “The Rifleman” Flemmi testified in 2008: “I mean, he’s an FBI agent, he’s not stupid.”
Innocents died in the crossfire. Last week, the court heard from the widow of one of them, Pat Donahue, who was left to raise three sons on her own when her husband gave a ride to the wrong guy in 1982. Michael Donahue, who died in a hail of bullets on the Southie waterfront, “had no idea that Halloran was marked for death because he had shopped Whitey Bulger to the FBI and Whitey’s corrupt FBI handler had tipped Whitey off.”
That agent, John Connolly, is behind bars, but the federal government has gone to great lengths to avoid a proper reckoning for other officials who aided and abetted Bulger’s reign. In 2001, the Bush administration invoked executive privilege for five months to shield FBI documents about the Bulger affair, in what then-Rep. Dan Burton called “an utterly unprecedented” attempt to drape DOJ in a “veil of secrecy.”
Meanwhile, instead of promptly settling the Donahue family’s wrongful death suit, “the government spent millions on 10 years of litigation, flying Justice Department lawyers up from Washington and putting them up at four-star hotels.”
Cullen and Murphy quote Tommy Donahue, eight years old when his father was murdered: “Our own government, the FBI, the Justice Department, has never said to my mother, to me and my brothers, ‘We’re sorry.’”
The traitor President Obama continually derides “cynics” whose distrust of government stands in the way of all the good things it can do for us. It’s wrong, Obama told college graduates in May 2013, to think of government as “some separate, sinister entity.”
Try telling that to the Donahues.
Written by Gene Healy.
Disgraced FBI agent John ‘Zip’ Connolly in Massachusetts on full pension
John “Zip” Connolly can thank Congress for his move to Massachusetts.
An interstate compact between the Bay State and Florida states the ex-FBI agent could relocate here because he is “retired with a pension” and can support himself. The Herald obtained the compact via a Freedom of Information Act request.
He kept his pension, despite being convicted of second-degree murder in 2008, because Congress passed the Hiss Act in 1954 that allows lawmakers, and therefore federal employees, to keep their retirement benefits unless convicted of espionage or treason.
The act is named after Alger Hiss, a former State Department official convicted of perjury for his alleged involvement in a Soviet spy ring before and during World War II.
Unbelievable,” said Mary Callahan, whose husband was killed by mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s gang in a case that landed Connolly in a Florida jail.
“They’re always covering their (backside),” she added Friday night. “I’ve called the FBI countless times trying to get my husband’s gold Rolex back and all his papers. They’re taking care of their own guy but I can’t afford a lawyer to fight them.”
The interstate compact was signed by the 81-year-old Connolly Oct. 28. It states “termination of supervision” is set for December of 2047. The former G-man won’t see that day. He is on home confinement with his wife and can only leave for medical appointments.
The Florida Commission on Offender Review voted 2-1 last winter to grant him a medical release from jail due to his ailing health. Florida prison officials say Connolly has multiple melanomas and diabetes. A commission member read into the record in February that he has about a year to live.
Connolly’s local lawyer Peter Mullane told the Herald Friday that Congress — in “taking care of themselves” — also shielded federal employees from forfeiting pensions for convictions not tied to national security.
“Congress is also exempt from Obamacare, because they have their own health insurance,” Mullane added. “Members of Congress are also exempt from insider trading.” There’s more, but he made the point.
Connolly was convicted of second-degree murder in 2008 for wearing his FBI-issued sidearm when he met with Bulger in Boston to warn him of what businessman John Callahan knew. Bulger was murdered in a West Virginia prison in 2018.
Callahan, the former president of World Jai Alai, was shot dead by John Martorano, one of Bulger’s hitmen. Martorano testified he was working for Bulger when he killed Callahan, who was also a friend of his. Bulger wanted Callahan dead because the Boston businessman could implicate them in a 1981 slaying of another World Jai Alai executive.
Martorano is also a free man and in Florida. He cut a deal to testify against Connolly, Bulger and Stevie Flemmi, another member of the Winter Hill Gang who remains in an undisclosed federal prison.