By Jim Smith
BOSTON — The trial of former FBI agent John Connolly Jr. is now in its third week in Federal Court in Boston. Connolly, 61, is charged with racketeering and obstruction of justice for allegedly shielding Irish-American gangster James “Whitey” Bulger from prosecution.
Bulger has been a fugitive since just before Christmas in 1994, when Connolly allegedly tipped him off about an imminent federal indictment. Connolly is also accused of leaking confidential information to Bulger about men who were talking to the FBI about Bulger’s criminal activities, some of whom were subsequently murdered.
Connolly, who grew up in the same South Boston neighborhood where Whitey Bulger lived, had recruited Bulger as a top-echelon informant to help bring down the city’s Italian Mafia in the 1970s and ’80s. Prosecutors now claim that, in the course of that alliance, Connolly accepted bribes from Bulger and looked the other way when Bulger committed crimes, including murder.
Kevin Weeks, a former sidekick of Bulger who is seeking leniency for his testimony against Connolly, testified last week that one of the murder victims of Bulger was John McIntyre, who was a crewman aboard the fishing trawler Valhalla, which had been used by Bulger and his associates in a failed attempt to ship weapons to the IRA off the coast of Ireland in September 1984.
McIntyre had vanished in the fall of 1984 after talking with local police and federal agents about the IRA gunrunning operation and related criminal activities of Bulger. His body was unearthed in January 2000 after Weeks led authorities to a shallow gravesite in Dorchester.
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McIntyre’s family has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the FBI, alleging that Connolly and other agents bear responsibility for McIntyre’s murder. In his testimony last week, Weeks said that Connolly had told Bulger that someone had been talking with authorities about the Valhalla. Weeks testified that Bulger then killed McIntyre after determining that he had been cooperating with police.
Prosecutors claim that Whitey Bulger would not be a fugitive today if Connolly had not fed him information about his imminent indictment for racketeering in December 1994.
But outside the courthouse last Thursday, Connolly told reporters that he had no knowledge about that indictment. “I never leaked information about the indictment in this case,” he said. “I never had that information, and if I did have that information I would never have done anything like that.”
The trial is expected to continue for several weeks. Tracy Miner, Connolly’s lawyer, would not say if Connolly will testify on his own behalf. “You’ll have to wait and see, like the rest of the world,” she said.