Saturday, 2:15 PM
Flemmi: FBI agent joked he was 'one of the gang'
(AP Photo/J. Pat Carter, Pool)
By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff
MIAMI -- Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi told a jury here today that former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. pocketed about $235,000 in bribes over the years and once joked, "Hey, I'm one of the gang.''
John J. Connolly
Flemmi testified that he and James "Whitey" Bulger gave Connolly about $5,000 each year when he went on vacation and $10,000 at Christmas time -- money that came from the profits of their crimes. The gangsters also doled out cash during the holidays to a handful of other agents in the FBI's Boston office, Flemmi said, none of whom have ever been charged.
Connolly raised his eyebrows in apparent disbelief as he stared at the man who had been his informant for years. The former FBI agent is already serving 10 years in prison for racketeering and is now on trial for murder.
Flemmi testified that they also paid Connolly kickbacks, ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, on several of their major drug scores. However, Bulger decided to reduce Connolly's payoffs because he was concerned that the agent was attracting attention with his careless flamboyance.
"One time we gave him money he went and bought a boat," Flemmi said. "Jim Bulger was upset about that. He had to sell the boat. I mean FBI agents weren't making much money back in those days. He was the best dressed agent in the office and people would start looking at him. That was a concern.''
Asked to identify Connolly, Flemmi gestured to the 68-year-old agent sitting next to his lawyers and described him as "a good looking gentleman, nice haircut. I know him very well."
Connolly stood up as Flemmi pointed him out for the jury, staring at Flemmi, unflinching and serious.
This morning Flemmi began his testimony with a primer on the history of Boston's gang wars. Wearing wire-rimmed glasses, Flemmi, 74, acknowledged that he killed 10 people from 1974 to 1984, 10 murders that have him serving a life sentence.
Staring expressionless, Flemmi described his introduction to killing in 1964, when he helped "clean up and remove the body'' of a victim of a gang battle. Prosecutor Fred Wyshak asked whether Flemmi had been involved in the 1965 murder of Charlestown gang leader Edward "Punchy" McLaughlin.
"I shot him," Flemmi said calmly.
At one point, Flemmi stopped himself in the middle of a rambling story about a fight over a woman that escalated into a major war between gangs in Somerville and Charlestown.
"It's kind of a long situation," Flemmi said. "Want me to cut to the point?"
"Yes,'' Wyshak said.
"I can go on a long time with these stories,'' Flemmi said. "I don't want to bore anybody.''
Flemmi and Bulger were longtime informants for Connolly when they ran a murderous Boston gang. Connolly is facing murder charges for allegedly providing information that led to the 1982 Florida slaying of Boston business consultant John B. Callahan.
This morning when Flemmi entered the courtroom, Connolly had his back turned as he huddled with his attorneys. Connolly glanced over his shoulder, frowned at Flemmi, and turned back to face his lawyers. The retired FBI agent was convicted in 2002 in Boston of protecting Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution and warning the gangsters to flee just before their 1995 racketeering indictment.
Flemmi is the second confessed murderer to testify in this trial, which is entering its second week. Last week, hitman John Martorano, who has admitted to 20 murders, told the jury that he shot Callahan to death. Martorano said he acted because Bulger and Flemmi had told him that Connolly had warned them that Callahan was "going to fold" when questioned about another murder.
This morning, Flemmi told the jury that he first got involved in crime in the late 1950s, shortly after serving two tours in Korea as an Army paratrooper. He was operating a small variety store in Roxbury when a local gangster asked him if he could run some of his loansharking business out of it. Flemmi said he complied, and soon joined the loansharking business.
He answered questions from Wyshak, a federal prosecutor from Boston who is assisting in the state prosecution. At one point, he asked Flemmi to explain "bookmaking" to the Florida state jury. The judge and jury erupted in laughter.
"You're not in federal court,'' Flemmi told Wyshak with a wry smile.
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