The Martyrdom of John Connolly

This was the deal the FBI struck in 1975: To rid Boston of the Italian mob, John Connolly would act as a liaison for Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi, who would in turn rat out the Mafia, for whom the pair sometimes worked. It was a great deal for Bulger and Flemmi; for their cooperation, the evidence suggests, the Justice Department looked the other way. Connolly says Bulger and his crew had authorization from the Justice Department to continue their crimes: loansharking, gambling, and extorting bookies. As long as they committed no violence, they wouldn’t be prosecuted. The deal worked for the government, too. The 1980s saw a parade of handcuffed Mafia foot soldiers, capos, and dons escorted into custody, with Connolly invariably front and center before the waiting TV cameras.

If you were around then, you probably know all this. You probably know how Connolly and his supervisor became too close to Bulger and Flemmi, were corrupted by them, that even as the FBI brought to its knees the Italian Mafia, it allowed the far more sinister force of Whitey Bulger to metastasize. You probably know from 10 years of newspaper stories, TV news spots, magazin
e pieces, and a shelf of Bulger books (not to mention The Departed, the Oscar winner loosely based on the Bulger-Connolly story) that Connolly was the law on Bulger’s side.

Few public characters have faced such an overwhelming presumption of guilt as John Connolly. But he didn’t act alone. In fact, if Connolly belongs in prison, so, too, do a number of other former FBI agents.

Start with John Morris. He was Connolly’s supervisor on the organized-crime squad. Thin, dour, formal, and cagey, Morris drank too much and talked too much over dinner with the mobsters. He admitted to taking $7,000 in bribes from Bulger and Flemmi, tipping them off to wiretaps, and warning them about an informant named Brian Halloran who detailed one of Bulger and Flemmi’s murders for the FBI. (Bulger subsequently killed Halloran.) After Bulger fled in 1995, and the investigation into FBI wrong-doing began in earnest, Morris received immunity from the Justice Department. Bob Fitzpatrick, a high-energy product of the tougher streets of New York, came to the Boston bureau as Connolly and Morris’s boss in the early ’80s. He says Morris got immunity because he had better connections than Connolly to high-ranking Justice Department and FBI officials. If need be, Morris could give up his own superiors, because they weren’t clean, either.

One of them was Jeremiah T. O’Sullivan, the lead federal prosecutor for the organized-crime strike force in Boston. In 1978, Bulger and Flemmi were about to be indicted with numerous associates in a horserace-fixing case. O’Sullivan took their names out because he and headquarters wanted to keep Bulger and Flemmi working as informants. In effect, O’Sullivan gave them a pass for their crimes and more reason to believe they had immunity from future prosecution, as Connolly has insisted. "Is that obstruction of justice? You better believe it," Bob Fitzpatrick concludes.

Fitzpatrick himself has long fought to clear his name after, he says, he was forced out of the FBI for attempting to root out corruption. He opposed the use of Bulger as an informant. In court cases and depositions, he has testified that agents in the organized-crime squad stole files from another team investigating Bulger and the people who might be tipping him off. Fitzpatrick testified that the special agent in charge of the Boston office, James Greenleaf, had leaked the identities of two men who were telling the FBI about Bulger’s crimes. One of them, John McIntyre, was subsequently tied up, strangled, and shot in the back of the head by Bulger in 1984. Greenleaf would not comment for this story.

Fitzpatrick can name at least 10 agents in Boston in the ’70s and ’80s he believes were corrupt. Kevin Weeks, who’s been called Bulger’s surrogate son, recalls Bulger bragging that he could call on six FBI agents any time who "would willingly hop in the car with a machine gun." Not for nothing did Bulger wake up every morning, look out his window, and say, "‘I own this town,’" Weeks told me. The FBI and Justice Department were so entangled with Bulger and Flemmi that the two organizations fought the state police and Drug Enforcement Administration’s investigation of Bulger and Flemmi, and resisted the efforts of federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak to indict the pair. Only when the state police and DEA threatened to go public with this did the FBI and Justice Department join the case.

After Bulger and Flemmi were outed as FBI informants in 1997, Flemmi claimed he couldn’t be prosecuted: By virtue of his status as a top-echelon informant, he had immunity. Federal Judge Mark Wolf conducted months of hearings in his Boston courtroom. Wolf would later describe an extraordinary effort by the FBI to cover up "serious impropriety if not illegality": Agents received gifts and money from mobsters, and warned them about the cops who were on their trail. In response, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno appointed a special outside prosecutor, John Durham, to investigate the mess. But Durham wasn’t exactly the cavalry coming to the rescue.


  • Bruce

    Your article, for once, depicts a fairly candid discussion of the federal criminal prosecution business in Boston. Fred Wyshak and his office do not walk on water and are in the business of selling "faction" (a little fact surrounded by fiction) to further their careers. As someone who was prosecuted in the 3rd series of Bulger related indictments, when they did not have a crime within the five-year statute of limitations, those blowjobs framed me with perjury to make a case. Now they are fighting to keep secret their cover-up of highly exculpatory evidence that includes federal Customs/DOJ investigations into the lead agents and Wyshak for obstruction and suborning perjury from informants to frame targets of Weeks/Murray/Teamsters case. (See US v. Cashman, 02-10015-DPW, sealed docket nos. 49-50, 55-63, 75-77, 83-91, 100-108.) It should be noted that some of the federal judges in Boston assigned to these cases were former federal prosecutors who are part of the same government club.

  • charlene

    Great article. Can you tell me what prison John Connolly is in? He has been transferred out of Miami and back to Mass., but to what prison?

    If you have the answer please let me know.

    Thank You

  • William

    this guy should be in jail for what he did fuck his family throw them into the street and take all his familys property sellit and gtive it to the victims of John Morris sociopath. This will put on notice ALL other FBI thyinking of going crooked


    What makes the nauseatingly righteous tone of this 2011 article possible in a semi serious mainstream magazine is that the Clinton/ Cheney legacies of “truthiness” masking criminal breaches of ethics have enured us to just how far down we’ve allowed public figures to rut about. Martyr my Ass!

  • Mike

    Despite his self-righteous and self-serving preaching, John Connolly continues to refuse to acknowledge his utter disregard for following the laws he swore to uphold. John Morris and Connolly deserve our collective disdain and the maximum punishment provided by the courts. But other feds should occupy the cells down the corridor from Connolly.

  • whitey b

    what a douche bag connolley is.

  • Robin Clements

    He’s like my God father and you know nothing of the truth. As a very young girl I believe he saved my life many times.

    • Sic Semper Proditores

      As a very young child, I believed in Santa Claus. When I grew up, I stopped believing in fantasies.

      Of course, my imaginary Santa Claus never shot an innocent man to death and then stuffed his body in the trunk of a car and left it to rot in an airport parking lot, in order to save his wretched criminal skin from justice.

      • Robin Clements

        Until you know the entire story, the truthful one, you should zip it. I would be dead, I was a very young child & he looked after me due to parents that held no regard for me. Why would an evil man care for such a young girl and make sure she is safe? I love John like a father, most will never know the man I did.

        • rigobertosanchez

          You’re full of shit. There are scumbags and there are scumbags and then there is John Connolly.

    • Derek K

      To Robin. No one on this Earth is truly good or evil. We make choices and live our lives and sometimes they can be viewed one way or another. That said, I have family that are viewed with the highest regard. One is dead and people still mourn him. I remember him as a bully, lair, and cheat. His wife is unfortunately still polluting the air with her breath and she too is highly regarded in the community. I see her as utterly despicable. I have to live with the fact that despite how they interacted with my life, others around me would have a completely different opinion. It hurts actually but it’s given me a new perspective on things.
      I understand your pain that a man that is vilified in the public has been a positive force in your life. I have no doubt of that. I am happy for you that he was good in your life. I do believe he is guilty of the crimes he is accused of, or at the very least, corrupting his post and the trust of the public which comes with it. People are strange things.

  • Sic Semper Proditores

    No mercy or pity for a crooked cop, and John Connolly is as dirty as they come.

    He betrayed his oath, he betrayed his comrades and he betrayed the people of the United States. Justice would have been hanging him by the neck until dead, but the next best thing is spending the rest of his miserable vile life locked in a small metal cage, knowing that he will never take another breath of air as a free man.

    Rot in Hell, John Connolly.