Saturday, 2:15 PM
Closing arguments delivered in Connolly murder trial
By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff
MIAMI -- Retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. did not pull the trigger, and was not even in Florida in the summer of 1982 when an admitted hitman shot Boston business consultant John B. Callahan in the back of the head and dumped his body in the trunk of a Cadillac at Miami International Airport.
John J. Connolly
But, during closing arguments in Connolly's murder trial, a prosecutor told jurors that the former agent signed Callahan's death warrant when he warned longtime FBI informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi that the FBI planned to question the businessman about a murder and he'd probably implicate the two gangsters.
Leaking that information was "like throwing red meat to a lion, it was like waving a red flag in front of a bull," Fred Wyshak, a federal prosecutor from Boston who is assisting in the state murder prosecution told jurors. "He knew what was going to happen.''
Flemmi testified that Connolly never actually told them to kill Callahan, but he said the agent knew that his tip would prompt them to kill the businessman because the agent had leaked information to Bulger and Flemmi in the past that caused them to kill two FBI informants -- one in 1976 and another in 1982.
Sixty-eight-year-old Connolly, a gray-haired man dressed in a dark suit jacket, tan pants, white shirt and red tie, sat beside his lawyers, taking notes on a legal pad and occasionally looking up and scanning the faces of the jury that will decide his fate.
He is accused of conspiracy to commit murder and murder, which carry a life prison sentence.
If jurors find Connolly leaked information to Bulger and Flemmi, knowing that they would have Callahan murdered, then the retired agent is equally responsible for the murder, Wyshak said.
"It's sort of like the three Musketeers,'' said Wyshak, "One for all and all for one. That's the nature of conspiracies.''
Though Connolly is only charged with murder, the judge has allowed prosecutors to present evidence dating back to the 1970s in an effort to show that Connolly had a corrupt relationship with Bulger and Flemmi for years.
After the trial began in mid-September, Flemmi testified that Connolly was like another member of their gang, that they paid him $235,000 in bribes and he routinely leaked them information.
"Mr. Connolly's day job was as an FBI agent," Wyshak said. "His real job was moonlighting for Whitey Bulger.''
The defense began its closing argument this afternoon by challenging the credibility of the state's key witnesses and urging jurors to focus on the murder charges and not the avalanche of other evidence presented during seven weeks of trial.
"We have experienced what I call the mud theory of prosecution," Connolly's lawyer, Manuel L. Casabielle told jurors. "In other words you throw mud at the wall and hope it sticks."
Casabielle said much of the state's case hinges on Flemmi, who is the only witness who claims to have had direct contact with Connolly about Callahan's slaying. The actual triggerman, John Martorano, merely recounts that Bulger and Flemmi told him Connolly had warned them that Callahan was a threat.
"Mr. Flemmi, in addition to being a serial killer is a pathologica liar,'' Casabielle said. "And he admits it. Maybe the only time he tells the truth is when he says he lies."
The defense has portrayed Connolly as an honest agent who was given promotions and bonuses by the FBI for using Bulger and Flemmi as informants against the Mafia -- which was the FBI's top priority nationwide in the 1970s and 1980s.
Connolly, who retired from the FBI in 1990 after 22 years, was credited with getting information from Bulger and Flemmi, and other criminal informants, to help the FBI build several high-profile cases in the 1980s that helped decimate the New England Mafia.
The defense has stated Connolly was an agent who was caught in the middle between an FBI policy that required its agents to recruit known killers as informants, and rules that prohibited agents from using informants who committed crimes.
But, Wyshak argued that Connolly exaggerated the value of Bulger and Flemmi, and flagrantly violated FBI rules to protect the pair.
"There's absolutely no justification to endanger the lives of other people, to tip off your informants to the identities of other informants, to reveal to them sensitive information,'' Wyshak said. "In this case Mr. Connolly intentionally violated the rules because he was trying to protect Mr. Bulger and Mr. Flemmi."