Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ex-FBI agent Connolly wants murder conviction overturned

Lawyers for former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. are urging Florida’s highest court to force an appeals court to make a final decision on whether Connolly’s conviction for a 1982 slaying orchestrated by gangster James “Whitey” Bulger should be overturned.
Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals ruled in May that Connolly’s 2008 conviction for the slaying of a Boston businessman decades ago should be overturned on statute of limitations grounds, but the former agent remains behind bars while the court weighs a request by prosecutors for a rehearing.

Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Manuel Alvarez wrote in a petition to the Florida Supreme Court filed earlier this month that there were “no reasonable grounds” to justify a rehearing in Connolly’s case and that the 74-year-old has already spent six years behind bars for a conviction that was reversed five months ago.
“Yet, despite having prevailed on appeal, Mr. Connolly remains incarcerated on a time-barred conviction as this cause languishes, once again, in rehearing limbo,” Alvarez wrote.
However, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, whose office prosecuted Connolly, said prosecutors believe Connolly’s murder conviction should be reinstated and that the appeals court was treating the case “with the seriousness it deserves.”

“They are being very deliberate,” Rundle said. “A just result is much more important than a speedy decision.”
Connolly was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2009 for his role in the 1982 slaying of John B. Callahan, a Boston businessman who fraternized with members of Bulger’s gang. Connolly grew up in the same South Boston housing development as Bulger and recruited the gangster as an informant in 1975, according to FBI files and testimony.
After an eight-week trial in 2008, a Florida jury found Connolly guilty of second-degree murder with a gun for leaking information to Bulger and his sidekick Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, that prompted the gangsters to order Callahan’s death.
Flemmi testified at the trial that Connolly warned him and Bulger that the FBI was seeking Callahan for questioning and the businessman would probably implicate the gangsters in the 1981 slaying of World Jai Alai owner Roger Wheeler.
It was undisputed that Bulger’s associate John Martorano lured Callahan to Florida and shot him to death, while Connolly was miles away on Cape Cod.
Connolly began serving his sentence for Callahan’s murder after he finished serving a 10-year prison term for an earlier federal racketeering conviction in Boston.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Whitey Bulger’s girlfriend to face grand jury

Federal authorities plan to call James “Whitey” Bulger’s girlfriend before a federal grand jury in a bid to force her to help them locate money and other valuables the gangster may have stashed around the world, according to two people familiar with the case.

Catherine Greig, 63, who is serving an eight-year prison term for helping Bulger evade capture for more than 16 years, was transferred earlier this month from the federal penitentiary in Waseca, Minn., to the state-run Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, R.I., according to a person who is close to the Bulger and Greig families. A US Bureau of Prisons website also notes that Greig is no longer in its custody.
Greig has been told that she will be placed before a federal grand jury in Boston that is attempting to track Bulger’s hidden assets, which would be distributed among the families of the gangster’s victims, according to the person close to the family, who asked not to be identified.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

In New York counterterrorism sting, a setback for federal law enforcement

When Ahmed Abassi arrived in the United States for the first time in March 2013, the Tunisian student settled into a historic, neo-Gothic apartment building in Manhattan’s Financial District.

Unknown to him, the apartment was wired with audio recording devices, and Abassi’s American host was an undercover FBI agent. Abassi, then 26 and suspected of terrorism ties, had landed in an FBI sting, part of an elaborate operation that stretched from New York to Quebec City to a small town in Tunisia.

Abassi was caught on tape discussing “the principle that America should be wiped off the face of the earth,” with people he believed to be co-conspirators, one of whom was the FBI agent, according to court records. At one point, Abassi suggested “putting bacteria in the air or in a water supply.”

But last month, Abassi, who declined to be interviewed, pleaded guilty to relatively minor charges that did not include any terrorism enhancements that could have sent him to prison for years, and he is not contesting a deportation order.

The case was a rare setback for the FBI and federal prosecutors, which have successfully targeted suspected terrorists using sting operations, typically ending with the defendants about to embark on what they believe is a terrorist attack with fake weapons or bombs supplied by the bureau. Guilty verdicts and long prison sentences follow.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Bulger files appeal

BOSTON–Convicted gangster James “Whitey” Bulger filed an appeal in federal court Thursday arguing he didn’t get a fair trial because he wasn’t able to claim he was promised immunity from a now-dead prosecutor.

The 84-year-old former crime boss was convicted a year ago on sweeping federal racketeering charges that included involvement in 11 murders. He is serving two consecutive life terms in a high-security federal prison in Arizona.

His seven-week trial gripped Boston while dredging up tales of morbid killings and mob activity stretching back decades. Some of the testimony against Mr. Bulger came from admitted killers who struck deals with prosecutors. The trial also recounted on how Mr. Bulger and his cohorts enjoyed protection from corrupt law-enforcement agents.

But Mr. Bulger, who spent 16 years on the run before his 2011 arrest, refused to testify. Instead, he called his trial a sham because a judge ruled he couldn’t use his immunity defense.

The 200-page appeal, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, argued his decision to not testify was involuntary.

“The court precluded the defendant from raising his immunity arrangements at trial in any form, including but not limited to, cross-examining adverse witnesses, presenting any evidence through his own witnesses, and most importantly, testifying to the agreement himself,” the defense said.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston, which prosecuted Mr. Bulger, said they are reviewing the filing and will respond through the court.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Whitey Bulger Attorneys to File Appeal Thursday

Attorneys for former Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger say they expect to file an appeal of the convictions that sent him to prison for life.

The 84-year-old Bulger was convicted last year in a broad racketeering case, including 11 killings and other gangland crimes in the 1970s and 80s.
The appeal is to be filed Thursday with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bulger's lawyers previously have said he believes he should have been allowed to argue that a now-deceased federal prosecutor gave him immunity.
Bulger headed Boston's Irish mob and was an FBI informant against the rival New England Mafia. His case became an embarrassment for the FBI when it was learned corrupt agents accepted bribes and protected him.
He was a fugitive for 16 years until his 2011 arrest in California.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The informants: Manufacturing terror

On the surface, the scene unfolds without any hint of intrigue. A young Muslim convert named Darren Griffin meets fellow congregants at a local mosque in northwest Ohio. In addition to sharing the same faith as his new friends, they enjoy similar interests: watching sports, playing video games, working out at the local gym, and discussing international affairs. Except the scene ends tragically with a string of arrests, a national media frenzy, and self-congratulation among federal officials claiming to have foiled yet another terrorist plot.

The only problem is that Griffin was an FBI plant and the terror plot he supposedly helped thwart was entirely manufactured by the United States government. Purely on the strength of Griffin's aggressive recruitment tactics, three young American Muslims received prison sentences ranging from eight to 20 years.

Similar scenarios have played out in many cities across the US during the past decade. "Informants", the new documentary film from Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit, explores a phenomenon that has been far more pervasive than the media, government officials, or community leaders have acknowledged. In addition to sharing the heart-wrenching stories of the victims of these entrapment tactics, the film is unique because it shines a light on the informants themselves, highlighting the crucial role that they played in actively enlisting young men who never demonstrated any inclinations toward engaging in violence.