WHITEY & THE FBI
Disputing sworn testimony
By Mitchell Zuckoff, Globe Staff, 7/19/1998
The way former FBI agent John Connolly sees it, several of his onetime
colleagues have lied about him under oath.
Connolly, a center-stage figure in the court hearings on FBI misconduct,
has repeatedly disputed damaging statements made by other agents concerning
his dealings with gangland informants James ``Whitey'' Bulger and Stephen
``The Rifleman'' Flemmi.
While the others have made their claims on the witness stand under oath,
Connolly's rebuttals have been made in interviews, since he has declined to
testify, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
First up was John Morris, Connolly's former FBI supervisor and head of the
organized-crime squad. Morris testified that while he was attending a
conference in Georgia in 1982, he asked Connolly if Bulger would provide some
cash to fly his girlfriend down to join him. Morris said Connolly gave the
woman $1,000, courtesy of the gangsters. Then in 1984, Morris testified,
Connolly was the conduit for another bribe: a case of expensive wine, with
another $1,000 tucked inside.
Morris also testified that in 1979 or 1980, he asked Connolly about Bulger
and Flemmi's motives: ``What do they want of us?'' The answer Morris said he
received was: ``a head start.''
Connolly called Morris's bribe testimony ``a malicious lie.'' He added:
``In my entire career with the FBI I never compromised my personal or
professional integrity.'' In a telephone interview with his lawyer Robert
Popeo on the line, Connolly said the ``head start'' comment was ``pure
James Ring, another former chief in the organized-crime squad, testified
that a dinner meeting in 1983 or 1984 arranged by Connolly was interrupted by
a brief visit from then-Senate President William Bulger, the gangster's
younger brother. Bill Bulger was a neighbor of Flemmi's parents, hosts of the
dinner party. Ring also testified that he upbraided Connolly for cozy
treatment of the gangsters.
Connolly said Ring was ``hallucinating'' and denied that Bill Bulger was
present ``at that or any other meeting I attended at the home of Mr. Flemmi's
parents.'' Bill Bulger also denied Ring's testimony. As for the reprimand,
Connolly said it never happened.
Robert Fitzpatrick, a former FBI supervisor, testified that another FBI
agent had accused Connolly of rifling through his files on the 1981 murder of
Roger Wheeler, an Oklahoma jai-alai executive. Fitzpatrick said the other
agent believed Connolly had shared information with Bulger, a suspect in the
Connolly called that ``ludicrous.'' He said such a breach would have
triggered an investigation, but that never happened. He said he actually
helped the agent by arranging for Bulger and Flemmi to be questioned about
Roderick J. Kennedy, a retired FBI agent, testified that Connolly told him
that Bulger and Flemmi had extorted $60,000 to $90,000 from a drug dealer who
had stored marijuana in South Boston without their permission. Kennedy said no
one from the FBI shared that information with the Drug Enforcement
Administration, which was trying to build a case at the time.
Connolly said he never told Kennedy any such thing. He also dismissed
Kennedy as a man with a drinking problem who was fired from the FBI for
pocketing informant money.
Almost as an afterthought, Kennedy testified that Connolly once told him
``they'll never get Bulger because he's too smart.''
This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 07/19/1998.
© Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.