Retired FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr., convicted last month in a Florida state court for leaking secret intelligence to James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi which purportedly set into motion a chain of events resulting in the 1982 murder of World Jai Alai president John B. Callahan, maintained that he was innocent at his sentencing hearing today:
Connolly, 68, denied having any role in a 1982 mob hit, telling the family of slain businessman John Callahan: "It's heart breaking to hear what happened to your father, and to your husband ... My heart is broken when I hear what you say."
Connolly, who used Bulger and Flemmi as informants in bringing down New England's Patriarca crime family, told the Boston Globe:
"I did not commit these crimes I was charged with,'' Connolly said. "I never sold my badge. I never took anybody's money. I never caused anybody to be hurt, at least not knowingly, and I never would.''
Judge Stanford Blake postponed sentencing until January 15 in order to first rule on a defense motion challenging the second-degree murder conviction. Indeed, some of the jurors afterwards admitted that they had difficulty finding Connolly accountable for murder based merely upon the allegation that he disclosed Callahan's identity to Winter Hill gangsters Bulger and Flemmi who were the men actually responsible for ordering the hit:
The Miami-Dade jury spent parts of three days deliberating Connolly's fate before it convicted him late Thursday of second-degree murder for helping informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi kill a potential witness against them in Florida. Earlier that day, [Juror Jane G.] Bleakley said, jurors were still debating whether he was guilty of first-degree murder. But the jury ultimately concluded that it lacked sufficient evidence that Connolly had outright plotted with Bulger and Flemmi to kill Boston business consultant John B. Callahan, a 45-year-old accountant and former president of World Jai Alai who had fraternized with gangsters, Bleakley said. The jury did feel, however, that prosecutors had proven that Connolly had signed Callahan's death warrant by warning Bulger and Flemmi that he might implicate them in several slayings, she said. "All of us agreed that he knew by giving instructions to these people, it might cause the death of Callahan," she said. "But we couldn't prove he had directly ordered it." The jury foreman, who spoke on the condition he not be named, said Connolly "didn't pull the trigger, but he did have something to do with all of it. If it wasn't for him saying all the things he said, the guy would not have got killed."
The vague speculation that Connolly's disclosure of Callahan's identity might get him murdered is an attenuated stretch by which to convict someone for second-degree murder, and undoubtedly will be a central issue on appeal if Judge Blake denies the defense motion.