John Connolly Jr. was a highly decorated and respected FBI Special Agent for approximately 23 years. He was an informant handler for the FBI, an intelligence officer you might say. John retired from the FBI honorably in 1990, accepting the position of being the Director of Government Affairs for one of New England’s largest utilities.
The defense issue raised by Defendant Flemmi in the context of those Judge Wolf proceedings was that Bulger and he had been “authorized” to engage in bookmaking, etc. John became the proverbial “odd man out,” since he would not agree to lie about the fact that indeed the Defendants Flemmi and Bulger, relative to the then specific charges contained in that initial indictment, had indeed been given “authorization” to commit low level non-violent crimes as Top Echelon FBI Informants. It was this appropriate and moral refusal to play the “little white testa-lie” game with the federal prosecutors that became the catalyst which sealed John’s fate in being subjected to these punitive prosecutions.
Could there be an element of professional jealousy inherent in this prosecution in that John is one of the FBI’s most decorated Special Agents in the U.S. Government’s war on organized crime? Another one of the FBI’s most decorated Agents, Joseph Pistone, spent six years “Undercover” in the Bonanno Mafia crime family. He is the celebrated author of two books, and the subject of the popular film, “Donnie Brasco.” In his book, “The Ceremony,” former Special Agent Pistone wrote; “The reign of the Patriarca Family is virtually ended. A substantial amount of the credit for the demise of that Mob Family must be given to one man, Special Agent John Connolly.”
In the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and the obvious need to improve human intelligence about our enemies, domestic and foreign, it is time to acknowledge one simple, but very important truth. Insider information on criminal, and terrorist activity, is vital to combating threats against our society. The efforts of John Connolly and other agents, and the risks they undertake for their own personal safety, is the reason the Mafia is no longer one of the threats to our citizens as it once was. We should all be grateful to all these brave women and men who serve the public in this law enforcement capacity.
What we are seeking is a responsible response to our call for fairness and justice. We are not asking for the unconditional or untested acceptance of this testimony regarding John’s moral character and persona. We are asking that all the facts now be reviewed and carefully considered without the taint of fabricated and withheld evidence by proseuctors. As some wise sage stated, “Facts are, indeed, stubborn things.” Our friendships and relationships with John vary greatly in terms of time and contact. However, our common bond is a our sincere belief that John Connolly is simply incapable of being the person that the federal prosecutors worked so hard to depict. Their misguided efforts in prosecuting this case included their intentional and deliberate fabricating and withholding of a significant amount of exculpatory evidence from John’s defense team. We share a total confidence in stating, without hesitation or qualification, that these facts more than provide ample evidence for us to continue to raise our voices in support for John to have the court grant and provide to him the “fair trial” that he has yet to receive on these unwarranted and false accusations.
The Government “Deals with the Devil” in Plea Deals
The government – with time running out to bring any charges against John within the statute of limitations – cut a “deal” with Boston Mafia Boss Frank “Cadillac Frank” Salemme. This was a “deal” that can only be described as unconscionable if not immoral. This government witness was a man John Connolly was personally responsible for putting behind bars for 16 years. John had arrested Frank “Cadillac Frank” Salemme while he was on the lam back in December of 1972, in New York City. He was then a fugitive and wanted for the 1968 car bombing of Attorney John Fitzgerald, who lost a leg and was badly maimed in the explosion, but by some miracle had survived. John testified against “Cadillac Frank” Salemme in his 1973 trial in Boston, which resulted in his being convicted of attempted murder and mayhem. Salemme was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but was paroled in 1988. He immediately returned to his life of crime in the Mafia. Ultimately, Salemme rose through the Mafia’s ranks to the position of becoming the Boss of the New England Mafia. By the time of his 1995 racketeering indictment he had become the prime suspect in numerous murders, but as part of his plea deal in the Connolly trial he had admitted to involvement in only six murders.
In a “plea deal” that should shock any fair minded person, the government dropped four murder charges for which Salemme had been indicted. It also gave him credit for the five years served while awaiting trial, which resulted in his technically having to serve approximately six more years. However, soon following the Connolly trial, Frank Salemme the mob boss, sociopath and serial killer was soon back on the street a “free man” courtesy of the federal prosecutors.
What was the quid pro quo for this incredible deal? Salemme was given the opportunity for freedom in several years, rather than life without parole, provided he furnished the agreed testimony against John Connolly before the grand jury in a “photo finish” with the statue of limitations. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme’s wife prophetically summed up this mutual deal of convenience during her interview with the Boston Herald. She commented that her husband’s [Frank Salemme] testimony against John Connolly was “sweet revenge” for what he had done to her husband. This truthful and observant comment by Frank Salemme’s wife didn’t prevent him from falsely testifying under oath with hubris at John’s trial that he held no such personal animosity toward John, and that he accepted the fact that John was only doing his job.
What exactly did John Connolly do to Frank Salemme? Amongst the many other adversarial law enforcement actions John took against the interests of Frank Salemme over the years, there is certainly agreement that John did his job in being responsible for sending “Cadillac Frank” Salemme to jail for 16 of those years. It almost defies belief that your federal prosecutors would knowingly and intelligently choose to collaborate with a Mafia Boss serial killer who harbored the strongest possible motive in obtaining revenge. After all, Connolly was the man who put him in jail for the longest period of time throughout his entire life of crime. Additionally, John Connolly was single handedly responsible for putting the entire Boston Mafia, of which Frank Salemme was a member and Boss, out of business through his investigative efforts as a Special Agent of the FBI.
Bringing Down the Mafia
It is important to consider John Connolly’s personal record as a career Special Agent for the FBI. The Director of the FBI commended him on eight separate occasions, and John consistently received performance evaluations of Superior or Outstanding. John Connolly, for the majority of his FBI career, was a street agent who put his life on the line by dealing – at the behest of the U.S. Department of Justice – with some of the most dangerous individuals in the world. He did not create any FBI policies, guidelines or establish any of their procedures. However, he did answer to his squad supervisor, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge, and the Special Agent in Charge. During his career, he was required to perform his duties in accordance with whatever the established policies, guidelines and procedures that existed from time-to-time. His performance and files were evaluated routinely by the appropriate personnel at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The FBI’s Top Echelon Criminal Informant Program was at the time relevant to John’s career deemed to be a secret FBI program. It was designed by the FBI to recruit high-ranking criminals as informants in the U. S. Justice Department’s war on the American Mafia. By all accounts, John Connolly was considered one of the FBI’s most successful agents in developing such informants. Assistant FBI Director Thomas J. Pickard, in an article written for the August 2001 edition of The Grapevine, could easily have been describing John Connolly when he wrote: “It is hard and dangerous work, usually unheralded and often at great personal sacrifice. But that is what FBI agents do best….”
In 1973, John first became assigned to the FBI office in Boston, and remained in this assignment until his retirement in 1990. He was primarily charged with developing so-called Top Echelon Criminal Informants, and this effort was particularly successful in New England.
There were three FBI investigations that are credited with bringing down the New England Mafia. The first was the installation of an electronic surveillance (i.e., bugs) in the Prince Street Boston Headquarters of Mafia Underboss Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo. The second was the bugging of Vanessa’s Restaurant in Boston’s Prudential Center, where Mafia members were intercepted extorting $500,000 from two elderly Jewish bookmakers and threatening one of their lives. The third was the bugging of the now infamous “Mafia Induction Ceremony” on October 29, 1989, in Medford, Massachusetts. By conservative estimates, John Connolly furnished as much as 70% of the “probable cause” information utilized by the three U.S. District Court Federal Judges who approved the Title III electronic surveillances for all of these highly successful and critical law enforcment investigative efforts.
The Mafia’s Revenge – With Our Government’s Help?
Why was it not obvious to the federal prosecutors that the Mafia would seek revenge against John Connolly when during the course of the evidence being introduced in the Wolf Hearings, it became evident to them that it was John Connolly who was primarily responsible for their arrest, prosecution and demise? Was it shocking to anyone that the Boss of the New England Mafia, “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, would give any grand jury testimony requested of him against John Connolly – the man who wreaked such havoc on Salemme and his Mafia Family? The more profound question may be – why would the government prosecutors stoop so low to become what can only be described as an accomplice to the Mafia by collaborating with them in facilitating their revenge against John Connolly?
In addition to the outrageous “plea deal” the government made with “Cadillac Frank” Salemme, the federal prosecutors even went one better. They also cut a “plea deal” with Johnny “The Basin Street Butcher” Martorano. According to various media accounts, he earned his nickname for allegedly executing three African Americans while sitting amongst them in a car. Martorano, who has reportedly admitted to having committed twenty murders, and complicity in several others, will be required to serve a total of ten years in exchange for his testimony against John Connolly. This plea deal means that John Martorano will serve six months per admitted murder, will get a pass on the death penalty in both Oklahoma and Florida, and will be back on the street a “free man” this October, 2006. Between them, Martorano and Salemme have either admitted to, are charged with, or are suspects in approximately fifty (50) murders!
These “deals” represent about forty-five (45) more murders than those admitted to by Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, about which the local Boston media years ago got itself so exorcised. Obviously, these plea deals pale in comparison to that of Barboza, and somehow the ego needed to win a case at all costs trumped the most basic of all goals in the administration of justice, which should be to protect the physical safety of the public. What could the prosecutors have been thinking in these circumstances in letting admitted sociopathic serial killers back on the street in exchange for false hearsay testimony in their misguided pursuit to win a conviction on alleged non-violent charges?
Lancaster Street Garage Leak
It has always been well known that there exists a certain amount of enmity exhibited by a few members of the Massachusetts State Police toward the FBI in general, and John Connolly in particular. These negative attitudes can be attributed in some degree to “institutional jealousy.” This adversarial relationship was perhaps best revealed by the unauthorized disclosure of the presence of a bug in the Lancaster Street Garage headquarters of the Winter Hill gang in 1980. The Lancaster Street Garage “leak” had been the cornerstone of the relentless attack upon John Connolly by the Massachusetts State Police. Yet, it has now been conclusively proven that the “leak” in that Massachusetts State Police case came from sources other than the FBI, which included “one of their own,” and perhaps more than “one of their own!” However, now that this “cornerstone,” has been removed by the disclosure of the truth, the media intensive public vilification of John Connolly loses its foundation and collapses.
These high profile events have proved the fodder for endless stories and accusations. A few current and former members of the Massachusetts State Police have recently alleged that their clandestine activity in attempting to infiltrate the gang’s Lancaster Street headquarters, coupled with the government’s inability to arrest Whitey Bulger since 1995, have somehow all been undermined by John Connolly. What most people are not aware of is the fact that at the time of the 1995 indictments, John Connolly had already been retired from the FBI for five years!
The facts are that the Lancaster Street Garage case and subsequent investigative efforts targeting Bulger and Flemmi were secret State Police undercover operations with no ties to the FBI. Of course, the first and most fundamental question that should have been asked was how were the State Police investigations and activities compromised by an agency (the FBI) that had been deliberately excluded from participating in the investigations? Someone should have investigated the more likely and logical possibility that the “leaks” were coming from within the Massachusetts State Police itself.
The truth was finally disclosed in April of 2001, and that former State Police Lieutenant Richard J. Schneiderhan had been the one consistently providing Stephen Flemmi and admitted Winter Hill gang “hit-man” John Martorano, with details of various State Police covert operations, including the 1980 Lancaster Street Garage case. The government now admits, according to media reports, the Lt. Schneiderhan “leaks” persisted for over 30 years –even pre-dating John Connolly’s appointment as an FBI agent – and continued for nine (9) years after Schneiderhan’s retirement! According to media reports, Massachusetts State Police Lt. Richard Schneiderhan had an almost adoring attitude towards Flemmi.
In another startling revelation, it was revealed in open court that Lt. Richard Schneiderhan’s own daughter was working in the US Attorney’s Office of the New England Organized Crime Strike Force – including during the precise time of the Organized Crime Strike Force’s issuance of the subject 1995 indictments.
Help Us In Our Fight For Justice For John
It is not our intent to Monday morning quarterback or assess the wisdom of the FBI’s Top Echelon Criminal Informant Program. Nor, do we have any desire to analyze the management or capabilities of the Massachusetts State Police as an effective law enforcement organization. Nonetheless, the underlying fact exists that John Connolly was tasked to participate in the U.S. Department of Justice’s own program for recruiting and using high level criminals as Top Echelon informants. He did exactly what was asked of him, and did so competently and effectively. Accordingly, he was recognized for his outstanding performance in carrying out this specific mission that was charged to him by his superiors.