Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ex-FBI Agent John J. Connolly, Jr. on Trial for Murder

by Donna Weaver

There are no surprises, so far, in the Miami murder trial of former Boston FBI agent, John J. "Zip" Connolly, Jr. The 68-year-old Connolly's life hangs in the balance as he stands trial for the May 2005 indictment on one count of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder— charges stemming from his association with his former high-echelon confidential informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi. In 2002,
Zip was sentenced to ten years for racketeering and obstruction of justice.

The Victim

In May 2005, John Connolly was charged in the 1982 murder of John B. Callahan, an accountant for World Jai Alai in Miami. Connolly allegedly supplied information to Bulger regarding Callahan being questioned in the 1981 murder of World Jai Alai's recently deceased owner, Roger Wheeler. Callahan was shot to death, his body, with a dime placed face up on his chest, was found in the trunk of his car parked in a Miami parking lot. As part of Whitey’s plan to branch out in Florida, Callahan had been skimming profits from World Jai Alai. Wheeler suspected Callahan was cooking the books and ordered an audit in 1981. Before the audit was completed, Wheeler was shot and killed. Another retired Boston FBI supervisor and boyhood friend of Whitey Bulger, H. Paul Rico was employed by World Jai Alai as a security consultant at the time. Rico was alleged to have set up the hit on Wheeler, but in Jan. 2004, soon after his indictment for Wheeler’s murder, Rico died in prison just days before his trial.

The Witnesses

It's going to be a tough case to make for Assistant District Attorney Michael Von Zamft and Boston federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak who say they plan to call approximately 30 witnesses to testify against Connolly. Among them is a veritable Who's Who of the infamous Boston underworld with a total of at least 45 murders committed between them. The trigger man employed by Bulger in the Callahan and Wheeler murders, Winter Hill Gang hit man, John Martorano has already testified, describing the murders in detail. Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi testified yesterday that Connolly accepted approximately $235,000 in bribes over the years. Connolly's former boss, John Morris (pictured above), has not yet taken the stand. Morris also admitted to accepting bribes from Bulger and Flemmi at Connolly's 2002 trial, but was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

Where's Whitey?

A week before Connolly's trial began, the FBI increased the reward for the capture of James "Whitey" Bulger from $1 million to $2 million. Bulger made the FBI's Most Wanted List in 1999 thanks to his FBI handler. Part of Connolly's 2002 racketeering conviction was for protecting Bulger and Flemmi from prosecution and warning them to flee in 1995 before their indictment.

Unanswered Questions

While Connolly steadfastly proclaims his innocence, I seriously doubt he will take the stand in his own defense, but these are some questions I would like the answers to:

1. How can you claim you had no clue that your CIs were murdering people? If other FBI agents and supervisors were, in fact, also aware of the homicidal tendencies of your CIs as you claim, isn’t that conspiracy to commit murder?

2. If John Callahan’s murder was a result of information you provided to your CIs in order to protect them, why are you then not guilty of murder? Did you think your CIs would send Mr. Callahan on an all-expense paid vacation to the South Pacific?

3. Why did you dismiss Mr. Halloran’s information for “lack of evidence”? After Halloran was murdered, and with the addition of the murders of Callahan and Wheeler did you consider this still to be a lack of evidence?

4. Why did so many missing person and homicide cases (despite the best efforts of the real cops), including the Callahan murder, remain unsolved for so many years? As these missing and murdered victims were all involved in some manner with your CIs, did you not see a pattern there?

5. Are you incredibly stupid, or are you incredibly arrogant?

6. Did your former FBI boss, the bribe-taking John Morris, become involved with the Callahan murder investigation while he was in Miami in 1984, when he was supervising an internal FBI probe into the criminal activities of former FBI agent and drug smuggler Dan Mitrione? Why hasn’t Morris also been indicted for John Callahan’s murder?

And last, but not least . . .

7. How many people would still be alive if you had not betrayed the public’s trust?

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