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Fla. court voids ex-FBI agent John Connolly's murder conviction


MIAMI (AP) -- A divided appeals court on Wednesday threw out the murder conviction and lengthy prison sentence for a former FBI agent in the decades-old mob-style killing of a gambling executive, one of numerous slayings linked to jailed Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.

Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 that former agent John Connolly was improperly convicted and sentenced to 40 years for his role in the 1982 slaying of World Jai-Alai President John Callahan. But further appeals are possible, so Connolly, 73, remains in prison for now.

A hit man testified in the 2008 trial that he fatally shot Callahan after Connolly tipped Bulger and his lieutenant, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, that the executive would implicate them in another death. The appeals court initially upheld Connolly's conviction in 2011 without comment but overturned it after Connolly's lawyer asked for reconsideration.

In the court's new ruling, a panel of judges determined that Connolly's second-degree murder conviction was barred by the statute of limitations applicable at the time. His attorneys argued that prosecutors improperly used a firearms allegation to enhance the charge to one potentially punishable by life in prison - for which the statute of limitations would not apply.

"Connolly's conviction for second-degree murder with a firearm should not have been reclassified to a life felony in order to circumvent the statute of limitation," wrote Chief Judge Frank A. Shepherd and Judge Richard J. Suarez in the majority opinion. "Without the fundamentally erroneous reclassification, the first-degree felony of second-degree murder was time-barred."

Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg dissented, contending the majority was making "grave error" in overturning the conviction.

"The evidence as to both his participation in the murder and his possession of a firearm during his participation is overwhelming," Rothenberg wrote.

Connolly has long denied a role in Callahan's slaying. Trial testimony showed he was 1,500 miles away in Massachusetts when Callahan was killed by Bulger's hit man John Martorano, who made a deal with prosecutors in return for his testimony in Connolly's case and others. The only evidence that Connolly might have had a firearm when Callahan was killed is the standard FBI practice that agents are armed while on duty.

Connolly's younger brother, James Connolly, said Wednesday in a phone interview that he was still trying to digest the ruling but is pleased with the result.

"I think it shows that he was wrongly convicted," he said.

The court said Connolly should be freed from prison based on the erroneous conviction, but it issued a stay so prosecutors could either ask the entire 3rd District court to consider the case or take it to the Florida Supreme Court. A spokesman for Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Bulger, 84, was a fugitive for 16 years before his 2011 capture at an apartment in Santa Monica, California. He was convicted in August 2013 of a host of crimes in a racketeering indictment, including playing a role in 11 murders while he led a violent gang. Bulger is serving a life sentence in federal prison but is appealing.

Connolly was convicted in 2002 of racketeering for his dealings with Bulger's gang, mainly protecting them from prosecution and tipping them about informants in their ranks. He was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in that case. That sentence has been completed.


AP Legal Affairs Writer Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this story.

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John Roberson May 28 2014 at 3:02 PM

Connolly according to the evidence was found guilty of calling a criminal and that criminal then killed another man. Now Connolly did not pull the trigger, but if Connolly had not informed the criminal, one man might still be alive today. Connolly was involved in the death of another person whether he pulled the trigger or not.

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rhone904 John Roberson May 28 2014 at 5:30 PM


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Rick rhone904 May 29 2014 at 12:40 AM

Calm down, Miss Sparky. Calm down.

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Bill Connolly rhone904 May 31 2014 at 8:00 PM

In 2008 in Florida, Steve Flemmi, a serial killer and known perjurer, testified that in 1982 FBI agent Connolly said, "If Callahan talks we'll all be in trouble." The problem is according to reporter David Boeri, Flemmi had testified under oath in 2006 that John Connolly "never did and never said anything intending anyone be killed." John Connolly was an honest FBI agent framed, scapegoated and railroaded by the FEDs.

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tdsaxa875 John Roberson May 28 2014 at 8:40 PM

Connolly called Bulger not Johnny "the executioner" who admits to being one of the most notorious hitman on record. with at least 20 kills from the sixties through the 80s. But Johnny M gets of with a little hand slap and Connoly gets nailed for 2nd degree by doing what was an acceptable practice and valued by his office at the Boston FBI and most likely all the way to Websters office. Connolly wasn't directed to Bulger by accident he was an oldtime southie boy from the neighborhood. Webster should be doing time what he got instead was the CIA job .

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Bernie May 28 2014 at 3:02 PM

Why should there ever be a statute of limitations on any murder charge?…. the victims are dead forever…. no limitations there.

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1 reply
Carl Bernie May 28 2014 at 7:41 PM

There is no statue of limitations for MIURDER!!!!!

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2 replies
ktv813 Carl May 29 2014 at 12:08 AM

"Without the fundamentally erroneous reclassification, the first-degree felony of second-degree murder was time-barred."

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BRUCE Carl May 29 2014 at 7:30 AM

No....only early release.

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quincy_maxwell May 28 2014 at 2:39 PM

So, the prosecutors basically lied and presented false evidence. Gee, who would have ever thought that any prosecutor would do that?

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lichwala May 28 2014 at 4:39 PM

You pay people to play treacherous traitors, eventually they become treacherous traitors. I don't like these secret police agencies anymore than I like these criminal organizations. They are both conduct themselves in crooked dishonest manners. Typically the FBI however would be exonerated because they are supposed to be the good guys. The nature of the work and the way they conduct themselves to accomplish their work makes them less then good guys. The Boston fiasco was a major embarrassment to the FBI, so they are hanging their own guys to dry.

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STAN THE MAN lichwala May 28 2014 at 7:06 PM

There motto of integrity, is it still there?

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generalsnafu lichwala May 28 2014 at 7:31 PM

Before starting any new operation, they always know, who will be the scapegoat well in advance.

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lruben1049 May 28 2014 at 3:32 PM

what else can we expect from florida? After all, this is the state that stole the 2001 elections. Me, I couldn't give a s@#t less; this is a corrupt FBI agent who was involved in killing another corrupt person. Who gives a crap?... But seriously folks, does Florida always do what it wants while the rest of the common folks sit around doing nothing? I won't say nothing if the masses do nothing...

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2 replies
dan_crabtree lruben1049 May 28 2014 at 4:49 PM

the only people who steal elections are your people the democrats..lived in florida and worked the local polls at that time wqhile the fake absentee ballots rolled in from the democrats...your an idiot needless to say...

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5 replies
Steve lruben1049 May 28 2014 at 8:29 PM

Iruben…you are correct in everything except it was the 2000 Presidential election that was "won" due to fraud in Florida by the most inept President in modern history.

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BAC ART PIPES May 28 2014 at 3:24 PM

ONE question: where is the monies?
Follow the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

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abcstarfox May 28 2014 at 9:10 PM

Statute of limitations on murder???
When did that kick in?

well, I guess they change everything
as/when needed now.

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charlie May 28 2014 at 3:37 PM

the guy ate with the pigs ,he should not get a 2nd chance .

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lee_young4 May 28 2014 at 7:38 PM

I guess he's wanting his full pension.

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runswthscisors40 May 28 2014 at 6:32 PM

"The evidence as to both his participation in the murder and his possession of a firearm during his participation is overwhelming," Rothenberg wrote.

When judges ignore evidence, the scales of justice are tipped the wrong way............

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1 reply
tdsaxa875 runswthscisors40 May 28 2014 at 8:56 PM

Rothenberg is such a fool. how can he even bring up the facts of the case when he knows that the appeal had absolutelt nothing to do with the original trial. Who appointed this genius.

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