Saturday, 2:15 PM
Attorney: Connolly helped with gangster Flemmi's defense
By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff
MIAMI -- A former defense attorney testified today in the murder trial of John J. Connolly Jr. that the former FBI agent had provided helpful information after Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi was charged with racketeering in 1995.
Testifying by video, Kenneth J. Fishman said that Connolly provided internal FBI reports and information that could be used to discredit other agents in the defense of Flemmi.
"He said they were for my eyes only,'' said Fishman, referring to reports that Connolly had filed with the FBI detailing information provided to him by Flemmi and fellow informant, James "Whitey" Bulger.
Fishman, who is now a Massachusetts Superior Court judge, said he met with Connolly four or five times at Boston restaurants and traded a number of telephone calls with the agent between December 1996 and 1997 while preparing a defense for Flemmi. The goal was to get the case against Flemmi dismissed on the grounds that the FBI had promised him and Bulger immunity from prosecution for their crimes because they were informants.
"I asked him whether he could provide the name of supervisors who authorized their continued involvement in criminal activity in exchange for their information,'' Fishman said.
Fishman acknowledged that some information provided by Connolly was "helpful" in undermining the credibility of agents who denied that the FBI had promised the gangsters immunity from prosecution. Fishman said he and Connolly didn't talk about whether the information he was providing to the defense was accurate.
Jurors watched a DVD of Fishman's testimony, which had been taped in Boston last January.
Today is the ninth day of testimony in Connolly's trial in the 1982 slaying of Boston business consultant John B. Callahan. Connolly is accused of murder for allegedly warning Bulger and Flemmi that Callahan was being sought for questioning and would likely implicate the gangsters in another slaying. The retired FBI agent is currently serving a 10-year prison term for his 2002 conviction of racketeering for protecting Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution. Bulger remains a fugitive, wanted for 19 murders, and is one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted.
The prosecution has been trying to portray Connolly as a highly respected FBI agent who had secretly become a gangster. Flemmi testified last week that Connolly pocketed $235,000 in payoffs, compromised investigations, and leaked information that led to several murders.
After taking a $25,000 kickback that he knew came from drug proceeds in 1983, Flemmi told jurors, Connolly himself joked, "Hey, I'm one of the gang."
An FBI employee who worked as an assistant to Connolly in the FBI office in 1988, also testified today, saying that Connolly let a number of paychecks pile up uncashed at work.
Denise Taiste told jurors that on one occasion when he wasn't in the office, Connolly instructed her to leave his paycheck in his desk. Taiste admitted that she peeked at the check, which was for $2,078.61, then opened the middle drawer of his desk and saw about 10 more uncashed checks spread out inside.
"I'm sorry I looked at your check back then, I did,'' said Taiste, looking over at Connolly apologetically. The 68-year-old Connolly, seated at the defense table, laughed.
When pressed by Connolly's lawyer about exactly how she put the check in the drawer, Taiste stepped down from the jury box and gave a demonstration -- including an exaggerated look of surprise on her face as she pretended to peer into a drawer.
"Let the record reflect she had a shocked look on her face,'' said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stanford Blake, drawing laughter from the jury.
Taiste also described Connolly as a sharp dresser and a "wonderful'' and friendly boss.
Hitman John Martorano testified last week that at Bulger's and Flemmi's urging, he lured Callahan to Florida and shot him. The 45-year-old businessman's body was found Aug. 2, 1982, in the trunk of his car at Miami International Airport.
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