A Florida appeals court has reversed the 2008 conviction of John Connolly -- Whitey Bulger's FBI handler -- on second-degree murder for the 1982 slaying of World Jai Alai president John B. Callahan because the four-year statute of limitation had expired, and Connolly's alleged role in the crime did not involve a gun for which the limitations period would not apply as reported by The Boston Globe: "the court said that under Florida law, the fact that Connolly did not wield the gun that was used to shoot Callahan meant that the case could not be reclassified." In 2011 the Florida appeals court summarily affirmed Connolly's conviction without explanation, and its reversal today was pursuant to a motion for reconsideration.
Hitman Johnny Martorano testified at Connolly's trial that he murdered John Callahan in a parking garage at Miami International Airport on the directions of Bulger and his enforcer Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi. The pair allegedly learned from Connolly that Callahan might implicate them in the 1981 murder of Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler who had discovered the Winter Hill gang was skimming from and otherwise infiltrated World Jai Alai. In 2003 Oklahoma authorities arrested former FBI agent and Connolly colleague H. Paul Rico for his alleged role in the Wheeler hit but the 78-year-old died before trial. After leaving the FBI in 1975 Rico took a job as chief of security for World Jai Alai.
Connolly recently claimed that Bulger exonerated him in debriefings with federal investigators as reported by T. J. English for The Daily Beast: "My lawyers have information that since Bulger was brought in, he spoke to FBI agents and told them . . . I had nothing to do with this murder in Florida, not one damn thing."
More than 100 former FBI agents believe that Connolly is an innocent man, and in March 2011 petitioned Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate his prosecution by Florida authorities as then reported by Curt Anderson for The Associated Press: "'I've never seen them go after a gangster like they have John,' said former agent Joseph Pistone, whose infiltration of New York's Bonanno and Colombo crime families as 'Donnie Brasco' in the late 1970s was made into the 1997 film starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino."