John Connolly (FBI)

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John Connolly
Born John Joseph Connolly, Jr.
(1940-08-01) August 1, 1940 (age 75)
Boston, Massachusetts
Occupation former FBI agent, former private security
Criminal charge Federal: racketeering
State: second-degree murder
Criminal penalty Federal: 10 years in prison
State: 40 years in prison
Criminal status Incarcerated
Spouse(s) Elizabeth L. Moore
Children Three sons
Conviction(s) Federal: 2002
State: November 6, 2008

John Joseph Connolly, Jr. (born August 1, 1940)[1] is a former FBI agent, who was convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice charges stemming from his relationship with Irish mobsters James J. "Whitey" Bulger, Steve Flemmi, and the Winter Hill Gang. Connolly was released from federal prison June 28, 2011,[2] and was transferred to Florida state prison to serve the remainder of his sentence for his 2008 second degree murder conviction.[3]

State police and other federal officers had been trying to imprison Whitey Bulger for years, but Bulger evaded capture until 2011. As the FBI handler for Bulger and Flemmi, Connolly (who had grown up in the Old Harbor Housing Project with Bulger) had been protecting them from prosecution by feeding Bulger information about possible attempts to catch them.

Connolly was indicted on December 22, 1999, on charges of alerting Bulger and Flemmi to investigations, falsifying FBI reports to cover their crimes, and accepting bribes. In 2000, he was charged with additional racketeering-related offenses. He was convicted on the racketeering charges in 2002 and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.[4]

Early life[edit]

John Joseph Connolly Jr. was the namesake and son of an Irish immigrant John Connolly Sr. known as "Galway John" by friends and neighbors. His father was a Gillette employee for 50 years; his mother Bridget T. Kelly was a housewife. They lived in the Old Harbor housing project on O'Callahan Way until John Jr. was twelve. In 1952 his family moved to the City Point neighborhood of South Boston, Massachusetts. John Jr. was able to attend Columbus High School, a Catholic high school in the Italian North End, Boston neighborhood. John Sr. earned the moniker "Galway John" because he was a second-generation Irish-American from Galway, Ireland, in South Boston, Massachusetts. He has a sister, Mary Ann, and one younger brother named James, who would later follow John's footsteps and seek a career in law enforcement, joining the DEA New England Division based in Boston.[citation needed]

As a boy, Connolly would later tell reporters, his first memory of Whitey Bulger was of Bulger using his illicit earnings to buy ice cream cones for all the boys that swarmed around him in adoration. Connolly would later answer to the nickname Elvis because of his thick black hair and also to 'Neighbor,' because of his early years of growing up in the projects. Connolly was a neighbor of the Bulger family, future US Representative Joseph Moakley, and Francis 'Buddy' Leonard, who would later be murdered by Bulger in 1975 during his battle for power over the rackets.[citation needed]

Connolly again met Bulger when the former was being beaten up by bullies at a park. According to Connolly, the teenage Bulger came in and chased the bullies away.


Connolly graduated from Boston College and attended law class and then briefly, and unhappily, attended Suffolk University Law School to study for a Bachelor of Law. He was in the same class as John Martorano's brother, James Martorano. He withdrew from Suffolk University without completing his law degree, but went on to earn a graduate degree in Public Administration from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. After completing his studies, Connolly worked as a teacher at South Boston High School and Dorchester High School. In 1968 he met with H. Paul Rico's FBI partner, Special Agent Dennis Condon, and Boston Police Department Detective Edward Walsh, an old friend of the Connolly family. Both Condon and Walsh would later brag that they had 'recruited' Connolly. He stopped by his old neighbor and State Representative Billy Bulger to discuss career opportunities in law enforcement. On August 1, 1968, U.S. House Speaker John William McCormack wrote a personal note to J. Edgar Hoover on behalf of a constituent. The letter began, "Dear Edgar, It has come to my attention that the son of a lifelong personal friend has applied to become a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation..." He was appointed to the FBI in October 1968. FBI Supervisor John M. Morris, who would also face charges of corruption, was Connolly's supervisor during much of his time working for the FBI.[citation needed]

FBI career[edit]

He began his FBI career in the Baltimore and San Francisco field offices before being transferred to New York City where he helped break up a child pornography ring. He wanted to return to Boston to be closer to his ailing father. In 1973 he was the first agent assigned to the FBI office in Boston and maintained an office at One Centre Plaza in Government Center, Boston. In 1980 he moved to 48 Thomas Park in the Dorchester Heights neighborhood across the street from South Boston High School. During his career in the FBI, Connolly investigated organized crime. He was also one of the primary agents involved in developing the Top Echelon Criminal Informants Program in New England. Over the span of his career he received eight commendations from every Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from J. Edgar Hoover through L. Patrick Gray, William Ruckelshaus, Clarence M. Kelley, James B. Adams, William H. Webster, John Otto and William S. Sessions. He is the brother-in-law of Arthur Gianelli who was later indicted with Joe (Joey Y) Yerardi. Yerardi oversaw John Martorano's criminal operations when he was a federal fugitive in Florida between 1978 and 1995.

In 1989 the DEA was probing the Winter Hill Gang for suspected drug trafficking.[citation needed] The DEA was well aware that both a former roommate and John's brother James worked for the DEA. As an FBI supervisor later noted in a memo, the head of the DEA's Boston office "quietly changed the duties of both these DEA special agents so they would not become aware of this matter."[citation needed] Boston FBI Special Agent Robert Fitzpatrick said:

Connolly just became a force unto himself, a vortex in a constantly changing system. He stayed put as new agents in charge came and went. And he could take care of other agents. He became the guy who could get you sports tickets. He could help you get a day off through the secretaries. He made no secret that he could help you get a job after retirement through Billy Bulger. But he wasn't that much of an agent. He couldn't write a report. He was no administrator. He was just this brassy bullshit artist. We enabled him to some extent. No one had the stomach for examining what he was up to. We just never came to grip with that guy.[5]

In 1990 after Connolly retired from the FBI, Billy Bulger lobbied with Boston Mayor Ray Flynn to have Connolly appointed Commissioner of the Boston Police Department.[citation needed] (Flynn instead appointed Francis Roache, Boston Police Commissioner 1985-1993.) Before he was brought up on criminal charges, John was mentioned in the crime fiction book The Underboss: The Rise & Fall of a Mafia Family in 1989 by Gerard O'Neil and Dick Lehr that follow the FBI's crusade against Gennaro Angiulo with Connolly, John Morris and a team of fellow FBI agents.[citation needed]

Married life[edit]

Connolly's first wife, Marianne Lockary, was his childhood sweetheart whom he married as he neared graduation from Suffolk University Law School. In January 1982 he divorced Marianne Lockary who cited an "irretrievable breakdown" after a four year separation. He married again to 23-year-old Elizabeth L. Moore, a court stenographer who worked at the FBI in Boston.

John had no children with his first wife but fathered three sons with his second wife, Elizabeth. When John and Elizabeth first married he bought a $80,000 condominium for them in Brewster, Massachusetts and took regular vacations to Cape Cod. His sister-in-law Mary Ann Moore, is married to Arthur Gianelli. Gianelli and Connolly purchased adjoining property in Lynnfield, Massachusetts from a mob family extortionist Rocco Botta.[citation needed]

Meeting Flemmi and Bulger[edit]

He first met FBI informants Stephen Flemmi and James J. Bulger at a coffee shop in Newton, Massachusetts. He occasionally lectured FBI agents at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia on informant development tactics and techniques and was a member of the Boston FBI's Organized Crime Squad. Retired FBI Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone wrote in his book, The Ceremony, "The reign of the Patriarca crime family is ended. A substantial amount of the credit for the demise of that mob family must be given to one man, Special Agent John Conolly." Louis Litif, one of the top bookmakers and Winter Hill Gang mob associate was one of Connolly's handball partners at the Boston Athletic Club. Connolly retired from the FBI honorably in 1990 and accepted the position of Director of Security/Public affairs for Boston Edison, from former Boston FBI Special Agent John Kehoe.[citation needed]

Murder trial, conviction and sentencing[edit]

In 2005, Connolly was indicted on murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges in the 1982 slaying of Arthur Andersen certified public accountant John B. Callahan and the 1981 murder of Roger Wheeler, owner of the World Jai Alai sporting corporation. Connolly stood trial in 2008 in Miami.[6] Callahan was murdered by John Martorano who shot Callahan and left his body in the trunk of his Cadillac in a parking lot at Miami International Airport.[7] Prosecutors alleged that Callahan was killed on the orders of Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi after Connolly told them that the FBI was investigating his ties to the Winter Hill Gang in their ongoing investigation into Wheeler's death. Wheeler had been killed by Martorano in Tulsa, Oklahoma in May 1981.[citation needed]

During the trial, Bulger associates Stephen Flemmi, Kevin Weeks and John Martorano testified for the prosecution detailing Connolly's ties to Bulger and Flemmi. Long time Bulger girlfriend Teresa Stanley testified for the defense about her travels with Bulger. Flemmi testified that Connolly warned them that the FBI wanted to question Callahan in the death of Wheeler, telling them that Callahan "wouldn't hold up" and would probably implicate them.[8]

Also testifying against Connolly was his former FBI boss, John Morris, who admitted that he accepted $7,000 in bribes from Bulger and Flemmi. He stated he began leaking information to them after Connolly delivered a case of wine and an envelope stuffed with $1000 cash from the pair.[9]

Testifying for Connolly was former U.S. Attorney and current U.S. District Senior Judge Edward F. Harrington who testified that Connolly was a star agent who was credited with using informants to help destroy the New England Mafia.[10]

On November 6, 2008, a jury convicted Connolly of second-degree murder. According to the prosecutors, Connolly faced a possible sentence of 30 years to life in prison.[11] Connolly was due to be sentenced on December 4, 2008 but sentencing was postponed until January while the judge in the case, Circuit Judge Stanford Blake, considered a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. The defense argued that in Florida, the statute of limitations had expired for second-degree murder when Connolly was convicted.[12]

On January 15, 2009, Blake sentenced Connolly to 40 years in prison, saying that Connolly "crossed over to the dark side." The judge agreed with the defense's argument involving the statute of limitations, but noted that their motion was past the deadline for such motions.[13] He accepted prosecutors' argument that Connolly abused his badge and deserved more than the 30-year minimum. The 40-year state sentence will run consecutively with the 10-year federal sentence, all but assuring that Connolly will die in prison.[4]

He was in FCI Butner Low facility at the Federal Correctional Complex, Butner in North Carolina.[2] He was released from federal custody on June 28, 2011,[2] and was transferred to a Florida state prison to serve his 40-year state sentence.

Connolly insists he had nothing to do with the Callahan murder. With Bulger's capture on June 24, 2011; Connolly's attorney said his client would appeal if Bulger corroborates Connolly's claim of innocence.[14]

On May 28, 2014, Connolly's murder conviction was overturned by the Florida's Third District Court of Appeal by a vote of 2–1.[15]

On July 29, 2015, the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami reinstated Connolly's murder conviction by a vote of 6-4. Judge Leslie B. Rothenberg wrote “It now no longer matters whether the defendant hired (procured) a hit man, turned to his mob friends to murder Callahan, served as a lookout, provided the gun, or pulled the trigger himself, he is a principal in the first degree.” The long-awaited decision meant that Connolly would most likely spend the rest of his life in prison.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tamara Lush (2007-02-08). "The G-man and the Snitch". Miami New Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  2. ^ a b c "Locate a Federal Inmate: John J Connolly". Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  3. ^ "Former Lynnfielder Connolly Ends Federal Sentence Next Week". Retrieved November 3, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Phillips, Rich. Rogue FBI agent sentenced to 40 years in mob hit. CNN, 2009-01-15.
  5. ^ Dick Lehr, Gerard O'Neill “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob”. PublicAffairs, 2000, p. 151.
  6. ^ Shelley Murphy (2008-09-16). "Connolly portrayed as corrupt agent". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  7. ^ "John B. Callahan". Boston Globe. 2008-09-17. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  8. ^ Shelley Murphy (2008-10-16). "'Whitey' Bulger's ex-girlfriend testifies at Connolly trial". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  9. ^ Shelley Murphy (2008-10-16). "Sides make case to Connolly jurors". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  10. ^ Shelley Murphy (2008-10-14). "Judge testifies Connolly helped decimate the Mafia". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  11. ^ Shelley Murphy (2008-11-04). "Miami jury convicts Connolly". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-11-07. 
  12. ^ Shelley Murphy (2008-12-05). "Connolly forced to wait for sentence: Judge considers defense motion to dismiss case". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  13. ^ Dateline NBC episode "Crossing the Line"
  14. ^ FBI helped Bulger avoid detection, ex-cop says. CBS News, 2011-06-24.
  15. ^ "Court vacates murder conviction of ex-FBI agent John Connolly, handler of Whitey Bulger - Metro". The Boston Globe. 2014-05-28. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  16. ^ "Court reinstates ex-Bulger handler John Connolly’s conviction - Metro". The Boston Globe. 2015-07-29. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 

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