Travesty of justice
If US Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s decision to force the Justice Department to pay damages to four innocent men, framed for a murder in Chelsea, reflects her approach to the law, then President Obama can stop the search right now and nominate her for that seat on the Supreme Court.
Kagan looked at Judge Nancy Gertner’s order that the government pay $101 million to the men who were framed for a 1965 gangland murder and decided that justice was better served by admitting a mistake, paying up, and moving on. She saw no point in exhausting every legal option — not to mention the families of Joe Salvati, Peter Limone, Louis Greco, and Henry Tameleo — to defend the indefensible, when the truth was so obvious, and the truth is the FBI let four guys rot in jail to protect FBI informants.
It’s a pity Kagan doesn’t yet have a say in the case of the family of Dorchester truck driver Michael Donahue, because the Justice Department is still hellbent on forcing the Donahues to jump through every legal hoop it can hold up. It’s a cynical exercise, one that explains why the FBI’s corrupt embrace of the gangster Whitey Bulger is never allowed to become history, poisoning lives 15 years after Bulger went on the lam, leaving shallow graves and shallow government agents in his wake.
A year ago, it appeared a federal judge named Bill Young ended the farce that was Justice’s refusal to settle with the wife and three sons of Michael Donahue, who was sacrificed in 1982 to protect the FBI’s sordid deal with Whitey Bulger.
Young awarded Donahue’s survivors $6 million. But he gave them more than money. He gave them Michael Donahue’s good name back. Young said Michael Donahue was an innocent man who died because the FBI didn’t care who Whitey Bulger killed as long as nobody knew he was their snitch.
Judge Young completed the process begun by his late colleague, Judge Reggie Lindsay. Three years ago, Lindsay told the Justice Department lawyers to drop the pretense that its agents in the FBI didn’t get Donahue killed. Lindsay ordered the Justice Department to settle.
Instead, the suits in Washington dragged it out, demanding a trial on the facts, when everybody knew what the facts were. Pat Donahue and her sons were forced to sit there and listen to what the bullets from Whitey Bulger’s machine gun did to Michael Donahue’s body.
When Lindsay died, before he could put a dollar amount on what the government owed the Donahues, the Justice Department demanded to retry the whole thing, even though Lindsay found the FBI liable.
Even after Young’s stinging rebuke, the Justice Department refused to do the right thing and give the Donahues the money.
“The government had 60 days to appeal Judge Young’s ruling,’’ Bobby George, one of the Donahues’ lawyers was saying. “They filed the appeal on the 55th day.’’
And so on Friday, the Donahue family will return to the federal courthouse, this time before the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and Michael Donahue’s corpse will be kicked around some more.
“We thought it was over, but the Justice Department has dragged this out from day one,’’ said Tommy Donahue, who was 8 years old when his father was gunned down on the South Boston Waterfront. “They don’t care what this does to our family. They never did.’’
The Justice Department’s appeal is based on the argument that the Donahues didn’t file a claim within a time period when they first should have been aware that the FBI got Michael Donahue killed.
Justice has the legal authority to appeal. They long ago forfeited any moral authority in this.
They’re appealing on a technicality, not the truth. Because the truth is on the Donahues’ side, and, in this case, the truth is something the Justice Department can’t handle.
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.