Federal Offense

This history is relevant because the Justice Department has in recent years recast Connolly as a villain, “a rogue agent” who not only allowed Bulger and Flemmi to continue their criminal enterprises, but also aided them. He was indicted last year on racketeering charges, and, last month, he was indicted on counts of obstruction of justice. His former employer has not called him a killer outright, but that is only a matter of legal semantics: According to the latest charges, Connolly told Bulger and Flemmi that Halloran was a snitch, which prompted his murder. Two other murders, one dating back to 1976, also are allegedly tied to Connolly in a similar manner. The Boston Herald cut through the technical terms, announcing on Page One that Connolly had “Blood on his Hands,” which is what the feds meant anyway.

Federal prosecutors and investigators have done much harrumphing over Connolly’s alleged crimes, spouting indignation and moral outrage. Yet it is worth asking why they didn’t seem terribly concerned about Brian Halloran in 1982, or at any time thereafter when they were still trying to catch Italians. If the present allegations are to be believed, then one of two other things also must be true.

One is that the feds didn’t know about the relationship between Connolly, Bulger, and Flemmi, which would make them morons. Bulger’s work for the FBI has been an open secret for decades, whispered by frustrated cops and, in 1988, reported in the Boston Globe. If newspaper reporters knew about it, surely professional investigators did, too.

The other, more plausible option is that Connolly’s superiors did know. Moreover, they approved, which would explain the commendations. If Connolly truly instigated homicides, no one in the federal government cared to rein him in or even to investigate. So long as Mafiosi kept going to prison, people such as Brian Halloran apparently were expendable.

Now that there are no more Italian mobsters to lock up, John Connolly is expendable. In building their case against him, federal prosecutors have cut deals with Martorano, Bulger lieutenant Kevin Weeks, Bulger associate Kevin O’Neil, and John Morris, Connolly’s former supervisor, who has admitted not only to being corrupt but, considering he sold his badge for seven grand and a case of wine, to being a dope about it, too. They have given four crooks (one of whom, Martorano, is a serial killer) a break in order to snare someone they deem more sinister — precisely the sort of amoral business deals that got everyone in this mess to begin with.

In the end, though, every bad deal needs a fall guy. Connolly denies all the accusations, but his guilt or innocence, like Brian Halloran’s credibility 20 years ago, isn’t particularly relevant. The feds aren’t making moral decisions. This is business.