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.