The Martyrdom of John Connolly

John Martorano lived in Florida for the next 13 years. He’d been a fugitive since fleeing impending federal charges in 1978. In January 1995, after Bulger and Flemmi’s indictment, the state police–DEA team went to Boca Raton and found Martorano living with a cleaning lady whom he’d brought from Boston, and the couple’s son.

Years later, sitting in a federal courtroom in Post Office Square beside Stephen Flemmi, Martorano learned that both Flemmi and Bulger had been government rats. Martorano had murdered rats. Upset, he flipped on his partners, cut a deal with the government, and described the World Jai Alai murders in Oklahoma and Fort Lauderdale and a long history of other killings in Boston. He testified that the warning about Callahan had come from Connolly.

In 2003, Flemmi agreed to cooperate with the government and laid out the details of the Wheeler, Halloran, and Callahan murders. By implicating Connolly, Flemmi enabled the state of Florida to charge Connolly with murder in the first degree and conspiracy to murder in Callahan’s death. The oft-delayed trial will finally get under way September 8. Judging by testimony from Connolly’s 2002 trial, civil depositions, pretrial hearings for this month’s affair, and interviews with cops and lawyers, the outline for the prosecution seems clear. Flemmi will testify Bulger told him of Connolly’s warning: namely, if Callahan talked to detectives, Callahan would give everyone up. Flemmi will also testify that he then checked with Connolly and heard the same thing. Martorano will testify that, after they told him what Connolly had said, Bulger and Flemmi convinced Martorano that Callahan had to be killed.

It’s not a strong case for the prosecution: There’s no explicit message from Connolly to kill Callahan. Furthermore, consider the government’s witnesses. Flemmi has pleaded guilty to 10 murders, including those of a girlfriend and a stepdaughter. For testifying this month, he’s been spared the death penalty in Florida and Oklahoma. Martorano also avoided the death penalty for his testimony, but in addition got his sentence reduced to 12 years, which comes to seven months for each of his 20 murders. The federal judge presiding at Martorano’s sentencing told him he was "a calculating opportunist." When Martorano got out of prison in 2007, the feds gave him $20,000 to start a new life. (Martorano is currently working with a Hollywood screenwriter to tell his life story.)

Still, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak says the deals with Flemmi and Martorano were the lesser of two evils. The government couldn’t have charged Connolly with Callahan’s murders without their cooperation. To bolster the case, the prosecution will try to convince jurors of Connolly’s guilt by showing the murder in Miami as part of a pattern. Connolly warned Bulger about rats; Bulger and company murdered rats; Connolly filed false FBI informant reports to draw attention away from the real killers. Connolly therefore had to have known that by talking to Bulger he was getting Callahan killed.

But strangely enough, Martorano never mentioned Connolly when he first began cooperating with the government. According to Miami-Dade detective Ram Nyberg’s report in December 1999, "Martorano had no idea of anyone else besides [himself and] Bulger and Flemmi who were involved in the conspiracy to kill Callahan." At a deposition in March 2006, the detective reaffirmed his earlier report: "Neither of Mr. Martorano’s proffers included any information on John Connolly."

This is why the defense, too, hopes to use Martorano and Flemmi to its advantage. Flemmi has an established record of lying. During court hearings in Boston in the late ’90s, he testified that the tip to escape arrest in 1995 had come not from Connolly, but from FBI supervisor John Morris. (It was Connolly who told Flemmi to tell that lie, a federal jury concluded.) Many times, Flemmi was accused of perjury by the same prosecutor, Fred Wyshak, who will help the state of Florida present Flemmi as a witness this month. But Flemmi has been consistent on one point: He’s never said Connolly told him, or Bulger, to murder anyone. During a deposition in New York in April 2005, an attorney asked Flemmi, "Did [Agent Connolly] ever suggest to you directly or indirectly that certain people should be killed?"

"No," Flemmi said. "He gave information for Bulger. Bulger interpreted it the way he wanted to interpret it."

This may not be enough to convict him. But that doesn’t mean jurors won’t wonder how much John Connolly is keeping to himself. He is the only one, after all, who could give a nearly full accounting of the Bulger case. But he has refused to disclose anything. At the pretrial hearing in July, he testified that the government offered him a plea deal three years ago. He would have served only fiv
e years for murder. All he had to do was talk. Because he won’t, the irony is that John Connolly, an ex–FBI agent, is the only person in this sordid saga to honor the mobster’s code of silence.

David Boeri is the host of Radio Boston on WBUR

  • 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

  • THOMAS

    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.