Friday, February 23, 2007

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: "The Departed"


The Departed (Warner Bros., 2006), directed by Martin Scorsese, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Ray Winstone, is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, for this year’s upcoming Academy Award ceremony. A remake of the popular Hong Kong crime thriller, Infernal Affairs (Miramax Films, 2002), The Departed is founded on actual events involving the FBI and Boston’s criminal underworld. The character Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson is largely based on James "Whitey" Bulger, a real life Irish-American mobster, who was indicted in 1995 on federal racketeering charges but fled just before his arrest, and has been on the FBI’s Most Wanted list ever since. Bulger is also charged with 19 murders. Matt Damon's character, Colin Sullivan, is derived from real life FBI Agent, John Connolly. Connolly is presently serving a 10-year prison sentence, convicted of racketeering charges in 2002 stemming from his relationship with Bulger and his partner, Steve “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Flemmi is currently serving a life sentence for 10 murders. In 2005, the former FBI Agent (pictured here during a recent Miami Court appearance) was himself charged with murder. It is a story about what the U.S. Congress has called “one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement”.

Head of the FBI's Boston organized crime squad in the late 1970s and early '80s, John Morris supervised agent John Connolly and oversaw the cultivation of Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi as confidential informants. Granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony during 1998 federal court hearings in the mishandling of the CIs, Morris confirmed the allegations of FBI misconduct, admitting that he had alerted Flemmi and Bulger to an investigation targeting bookmakers in 1988 and had asked a federal prosecutor to keep them out of a 1979 indictment for fixing horse races. Morris further admitted that he told Connolly about an informant who had implicated Bulger and Flemmi in a murder, fully expecting this valuable tidbit of information would get back to the FBI’s star mobsters. The informant was subsequently murdered. It was further discovered that John Morris accepted $7,000 in payoffs and some wine from Bulger and Flemmi two weeks before coming to South Florida in 1984 to head a Special Administrative Investigation into the criminal activity of another notoriously corrupt former FBI agent, Dan Mitrione, Jr. …Chummy little group.

In May 2005, John Connolly was charged in the 1982 murder of John Callahan, an accountant for World Jai Alai in Miami. Morris and Connolly allegedly supplied information to Bulger regarding Callahan being questioned in the 1981 murder of World Jai Alai's recently deceased owner, Roger Wheeler. Callahan was shot to death, his body, with a dime placed face up on his chest, was found in the trunk of his car parked in a Miami parking lot

As part of Whitey’s plan to branch out in Florida, Callahan had been skimming profits from World Jai Alai. Wheeler suspected Callahan was cooking the books and ordered an audit in 1981. Before the audit was completed, Wheeler was shot and killed. Another retired Boston FBI supervisor and boyhood friend of Whitey Bulger, H. Paul Rico was employed by World Jai Alai as a security consultant at the time. Rico was alleged to have set up the hit on Wheeler, but in Jan. 2004, soon after his indictment for Wheeler’s murder, Rico died in prison just days before his trial. The triggerman employed by Bulger in the Callahan and Wheeler murders was Winter Hill Gang hit man, John Martorano.

Unfortunately, the mishandling of confidential informants in Boston is a cancer that has grown untreated within the FBI for more than thirty years. I am not suggesting that all FBI agents are like Connolly, Morris, Rico, et al; because they are not- I even met a good one once. However, there are more allegations of misconduct in related cases in other areas of the country. But that’s a story for another time. For now, it is time for the DOJ to acknowledge the existence of this cancer, and its consequences. To say they need to do much better is an understatement, but the only way to do better is to figure out what you did wrong.

Hats off to Mr. Scorsese and the brilliant performances by the cast of The Departed for helping to further public awareness, and hopefully, inspire public outrage. For the truth is, our leaders, protectors, and others in positions of public service are only as honest, accountable, and deserving of our trust as we insist that they be.

But it is difficult for an oblivious public to muster outrage. It’s a good thing we have movies, because the predominantly spineless news media in South Florida has yet again failed to cover this important story unfolding within its midst. More recently, they were slower than the old Pony Express to break the story of Anna Nicole Smith’s death happening in their own backyard. That is, all but my fearless heroes at the New Times weekly news magazine. Thank God for heroes.

While reading a recent article in the Miami New Times, The G-man and the Snitch (Tamara Lush, February 8, 2007), I followed a link in the article to John Connolly’s website, Connolly’s web site contained page after page of repetitive and infuriating bull crap. For example, this excerpt:

"The question that one cannot help but pose is: How does one conspire to commit a murder with alleged co-conspirators, who never even told the person accused, that they ever killed anyone in the first place?"

So this is some kind of "don't ask, don't tell” defense? Is that the best you can do? You have got to be kidding me. There are plenty of ways to conspire to commit murder- just ask any organized crime boss. Even your everyday garden-variety type murderers conspire to kill people they have never met in order to protect a good thing they have going. Happens all the time

Here are a few questions for John Connolly that I “cannot help but pose”.

1. How can you claim you had no clue that your CIs were murdering people? If other FBI agents and supervisors were, in fact, also aware of the homicidal tendencies of your CIs as you claim, isn’t that conspiracy to commit murder?

2. If John Callahan’s murder was a result of information you provided to your CIs in order to protect them, why are you then not guilty of murder? Did you think your CIs would send Mr. Callahan on an all-expense paid vacation to the South Pacific?

3. Why did you dismiss Mr. Halloran’s information for “lack of evidence”? After Halloran was murdered, and with the addition of the murders of Callahan and Wheeler did you consider this still to be a lack of evidence?

4. Why did so many missing person and homicide cases (despite the best efforts of the real cops), including the Callahan murder, remain unsolved for so many years? As these missing and murdered victims were all involved in some manner with your CIs, did you not see a pattern there?

5. Are you incredibly stupid, or are you incredibly arrogant?

6. Did your former FBI boss, the bribe-taking John Morris, become involved in any way with the Callahan murder investigation while he was in Miami in 1984 supervising an internal FBI investigation into the criminal activities of former FBI agent and drug smuggler, Dan Mitrione? Why hasn’t Morris also been indicted for John Callahan’s murder?

7. How many people would still be alive if you had not betrayed the public’s trust?

And last, but not least…

8. How do you sleep at night?

Justice will come, John. Justice will most definitely come.
I’d get used to that view from where you’re standing now if I were you.

(Photo of John Connolly courtesy of Miami New Times)

Donna Weaver

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