US won’t appeal verdict in case of four framed by FBI

Plaintiffs to get damage judgment of $101.7 million

By Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / May 1, 2010

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The federal government has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court a landmark verdict for four men framed by the FBI in a gangland slaying, meaning the plaintiffs will receive a damage judgment that totals $101.7 million, according to one of their lawyers.

US Solicitor General Elena Kagan let the deadline pass yesterday for the government to challenge the award before the high court, said Victor J. Garo, the lawyer for Joseph Salvati, who lives in the North End.

His 77-year-old client spent more than 29 years in prison as a result of his wrongful conviction.

Garo said Salvati will receive the $31 million he was awarded by US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner in 2007 plus more than $2 million in interest that accumulated since then.

Garo said he and the lawyers for the other plaintiffs went to Washington several weeks ago to urge Kagan’s office not to appeal. The Justice Department, which had refused to pay up, tried to persuade Kagan’s lawyers to continue the legal fight.

But Kagan, whose office represents the government before the Supreme Court and is the former dean of Harvard Law School, sided with the plaintiffs.

“I know there must have been a lot of pressure on the solicitor general’s office to do this [appeal], but they looked at the law, and they saw that we were correct in our reading of the law, and for that we’re very grateful,’’ said Garo, a Medford lawyer.

Officials at the Justice Department were not immediately available for comment.

In addition to Salvati, the other plaintiffs in the case are Peter J. Limone of Medford and the families of Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo. Greco and Tameleo died in prison decades after they were convicted.

In a dramatic ruling on July 26, 2007, Gertner found the FBI “responsible for the framing of four innocent men’’ in the 1965 murder of a small-time criminal, Edward “Teddy’’ Deegan, in a Chelsea alley.

She concluded after a 22-day bench trial that the FBI deliberately withheld evidence of the four men’s innocence and helped conceal the injustice for decades.

The discovery of secret FBI files that were not turned over during the men’s 1968 state murder trial had prompted a state judge in 2001 to overturn the murder convictions of Limone and Salvati. Limone was immediately freed from prison. Salvati had been paroled in 1997.

The convictions of Tameleo and Greco were later set aside posthumously.

Documents in the Deegan slaying showed that the FBI knew the key witness in the case, notorious hit man-turned-government witness Joseph “The Animal’’ Barboza, may have falsely implicated the four men while protecting one of Deegan’s real killers, Vincent “Jimmy’’ Flemmi, an FBI informant.

Gertner found that the FBI protected Barboza and Flemmi because both provided valuable information against the Mafia.

Last August, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld Gertner’s verdict, although the appellate judges said the $101.7 million award was “at the outer edge of the universe of permissible awards.’’

In December 2008, Limone was arrested by the State Police on charges that he ran a tightly controlled illegal gambling ring that allegedly brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

His lawyer, Juliane Balliro, said he was innocent but had been arrested because of his past and was an “easy target.’’

She did not return phone calls yesterday.

Saltzman can be reached at