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Bill would aid kin of 2 slain men

Stephen Lynch said his bill is “needed to help the families who have been denied justice in this case.’’ Stephen Lynch said his bill is “needed to help the families who have been denied justice in this case.’’
By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / October 18, 2011

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US Representative Stephen F. Lynch introduced legislation last week aimed at allowing two families to recover millions of dollars in damages from the government in connection with two murders allegedly involving James “Whitey’’ Bulger.

The families of Michael Donahue and Edward “Brian’’ Halloran were awarded $8.5 million in 2009 after a judge found the government liable for its handling of Bulger as an informant. At the time of the slayings, the FBI was protecting Bulger from prosecution for crimes because Bulger was acting as an important informant on rival organized crime figures in Boston.

According to previous Globe reports, Halloran was reportedly about to inform on Bulger in another slaying, but Bulger was tipped off by his FBI handlers. Donahue gave Halloran a ride home to Dorchester from a bar in May 1982, when both men were killed in a hail of gunfire.

The $8.5 million judgment against the government was overturned in February by a federal appeals court panel on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired by the time the families filed their claims in 2001. That decision was affirmed by the appellate court earlier this month.

Lynch is proposing to backdate his bill, so that the provision increasing the statute of limitations would be retroactive to include the Donahue and Halloran families, an unusual move, Lynch said in an interview yesterday, but one the House counsel said could be done.

“It’s creative, obviously, but I think it’s needed to help the families who have been denied justice in this case,’’ Lynch said.

Tommy Donahue, Michael’s youngest son, said in a telephone interview that his family “is very appreciative of Congressman Lynch’s efforts.’’

Lynch’s bill would also increase congressional oversight of the use of confidential informants by law enforcement agencies.

“While the use of confidential informants can be an effective crime-fighting tool, unfortunately we have also seen the practice abused, innocent people killed, falsely imprisoned, and families torn apart as a result,’’ Lynch said. “By enhancing congressional oversight, hopefully, the past will not be repeated.’’

Lynch’s bill would require federal law enforcement agencies to report to Congress semiannually on all serious crimes committed by confidential informants while under the supervision of those law enforcement agencies.

Federal law enforcement agencies would have to report information about crimes committed, but not names or identifying information of the informants.

Lynch said in an interview that increasing congressional oversight is needed in light of the cases of both Bulger and Mark Rossetti, the reputed Mafia capo used as an FBI informant despite his violent record and his being a suspect in six homicides.

“The similarities between [Bulger and Rossetti] are ridiculous,’’ said Lynch.

Lynch also said disclosure that members of the Colombo crime family in New York were involved in kllings while working with the FBI shows that the FBI’s abuse of the new guidelines that emerged from hearings in 2003 about the Bulger fiasco is not limited to Boston.

Kevin Cullen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John M. Guilfoil can be reached at jguilfoil@globe.com.