By Jim Smith
BOSTON — Filling in for talk show host Gene Burns last week on WMEX radio, former Vatican ambassador and mayor of Boston Ray Flynn blasted federal prosecutors for not dropping the criminal case against former Boston police officer Ken Conley, the 31-year-old South Boston native who was convicted of perjury in 1998 and sentenced to 34 months in prison when he said he had not seen a black police officer moments before he was beaten by other officers.
"I think that this is an absolute injustice and outrage . . . what the prosecution and the political establishment are doing to Ken Conley," Flynn told the Irish Echo and a Boston radio audience last Thursday. "An Irish-Catholic white police officer from the streets of South Boston is getting railroaded."
As reported in last week’s Echo, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Keeton, who presided over Conley’s trial in 1998, ordered a new trial in June, ruling that "newly discovered evidence" and conflicting testimony contained in sealed records had led him to conclude that "it is in the best interests of justice that a new trial be allowed."
But in July, federal prosecutors announced that they, along with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, would appeal Keeton’s order for a new trial. They describe Conley in a press statement as "part of the blue wall of silence" that prevented the prosecution of the police officers who were actually involved in the brutal beating of officer Michael Cox.
A civil jury found Conley not liable of having participated in the coverup in December 1998. Three officers, two black and one white, were found liable for the beating and related offenses, but they were never criminally charged. And in his June ruling, Keeton suggested that prosecutors may have withheld evidence from Conley’s lawyers that they knew would come out during the civil trial that was held six months after Conley’s perjury trial.
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During his radio program Thursday, Flynn criticized Massachusetts Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry for not taking an active role on Conley’s behalf. "They appoint the federal prosecutors, the U.S. attorneys, and they ought to step into this and say that Ken Conley is getting a bad deal," Flynn said. "I’m very disappointed with Kennedy and Kerry."
Flynn charged that prosecutors should be setting their sights on drug dealers rather than spending so much time and money on the Conley case.
"I have more people coming up to me . . . telling me they have never seen so much heroin on the streets of Boston as they see now," he said. "Lives are shattered and families are being destroyed by the proliferation of drugs in our city. . . . Is this all the U.S. government has to do? What are the priorities here?"
The case against Conley will now go before the first Circuit Court of Appeals, which will determine if Judge Keeton made an error when he ordered a new trial for Conley.