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Former FBI Agent’s Trial Begins

May 8, 2002

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BOSTON (AP) _ A retired FBI agent went on trial Wednesday on charges he let two high-ranking mob informants literally get away with murder.

John Connolly, 61, is charged with racketeering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy for allegedly protecting James J. ``Whitey″ Bulger and Stephen ``The Rifleman″ Flemmi from prosecution, and for providing the reputed gangsters with confidential law enforcement information.

Federal prosecutor John Durham said Connolly tipped off Bulger in 1994 that he was about to be indicted. The reputed gangster disappeared and is now on the FBI’s most-wanted list.

The indictment against Bulger was expanded in 2000 to link him and his associates to 21 murders. Flemmi is awaiting trial for his alleged role in 10 murders.

In their opening argument, Connolly’s lawyers said that it was the FBI agent’s job to deal with criminals and that he did not know the extent of their crimes. Connolly has insisted everything he did was approved by his FBI superiors.

``He was at the bottom,″ defense attorney Tracy Miner said. ``He took orders. He didn’t give them.″

The retired agent sat with his family in the courtroom and took notes during opening statements.

The Connolly case has proved a major embarrassment to the FBI and exposed what investigators say was an overly cozy relationship between the bureau and Boston mobsters.

Bulger and Flemmi were reputed leaders of the Irish mob that ran gambling, loansharking and other rackets in Boston. Prosecutors say Connolly and his supervisor, John Morris, gave Bulger and Flemmi sanction to do whatever they wanted in return for their information about the Italian mob.

At least two mob informants were murdered after Connolly let Bulger and Flemmi know about the men’s help to the FBI, authorities say.

Morris, who was granted immunity and pleaded guilty to illegally accepting money from Bulger, is expected to testify against Connolly.

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