Disgraced former Boston FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. has lost an appeal of his conviction in a 1982 Florida murder.
Connolly, 70, had sought to overturn his 2008 second-degree murder conviction for leaking information to longtime FBI informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi. That tip prompted the gangsters to orchestrate the slaying of Boston businessman John B. Callahan in Florida.
Florida's Third District Court of Appeal issued an opinion today affirming the conviction in the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. The unsigned opinion did not explain the court's ruling.
Connolly, who retired from the FBI in 1990, was convicted in 2002 on federal racketeering charges in Boston and sentenced to 10 years. That sentence is to end on June 28, according to the US Bureau of Prisons website. Connolly faces a separate 40-year sentence in the Florida case.
"Justice was done. The evidence was clear that Connolly participated in the murder of Callahan," said Fred Wyshak, an assistant US attorney in Boston who was part of the Florida state's attorney team that prosecuted Connolly.
"Connolly's appeal was not based upon the merits of the conviction, but a technical issue which obviously the appellate court in Florida determined not to be a fundamental violation of his rights and therefore affirmed the conviction," Wyshak said.
Wyshak added that the rejection of Connolly's appeal marks the end of the criminal cases that resulted from Bulger's corrupt relationship with the FBI, unless Bulger, one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted, is caught and returned to Boston to stand trial on pending racketeering and murder charges.
"Unless Bulger is ever captured, this brings an end to the prosecutions resulting from the scandal created by Bulger's relationship with the FBI,'' Wyshak said.
Miami attorney Manuel L. Casabielle, who represented Connolly at trial, said he was disappointed in the ruling, which was issued without any opinion that explains the appeals court's decision.
"By not writing a written opinion it takes the ability to go to the Florida Supreme Court away,'' said Casabielle, adding that unless the court reconsiders its ruling then Connolly's only remedy is to petition the federal courts to consider his case.
Casabielle said Connolly's appeals court lawyer plans to ask the three-judge Florida appeals court panel to reconsider its ruling, issue a written opinion, or allow the full bench to hear Connolly's appeal.
"He's always professed his innocence,'' Casabielle said of Connolly.
Manuel Alvarez, Connolly's appeals lawyer, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Callahan's widow, Mary, said today that she hopes the appeals court ruling means that after 28 years, the case is finally over.
"We've got some justice in that the person responsible for the killing of John Callahan didn't get away with it,'' she said. "And I think my son and my daughter feel the same way.''
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