The G-man and the Snitch

John Connolly didn't look dangerous sitting there in Room 7-3 of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse alongside the carjackers, rapists, and robbers.

No, Connolly looked exactly like what he was: a short, stocky 66-year-old guy in handcuffs. His wide face was puffy and red, as if his blood pressure were a touch high. His hue almost matched his attire — a tomato-color jumpsuit.

His mouth and brow were frozen in a perpetual, skeptical scowl. Saggy jowls hung from his jaw. His hair was the only attractive thing about him — thick, gray, and perfectly coiffed.

While waiting for his hearing, Connolly sat motionless, barely blinking. He didn't fidget with his black wire-rim glasses or look at anyone in the audience. The other prisoners were bodies in motion: throwing gang signs to their friends, blowing kisses to their girlfriends, sighing audibly. They were toothless, tattooed, and goateed, all wearing bright orange jumpsuits.

Connolly soaked it in with Zen-like calm. He eyed the judge as she called each case, followed every lawyer's word with a slight turn of his head. Occasionally he glanced at the other inmates, and his scowl deepened. He kept his hands folded neatly in his lap.

He stood when the judge called his name.

His was one of 60 cases on Judge Barbara Areces's docket that day. The room was packed with defense lawyers, prosecutors, criminals, probation officers, mothers, and a couple of reporters. Almost no one in the room paid attention to the proceedings. The din was so loud that Judge Areces — a smiling brunet with brick-red lipstick — finally pursed her lips: "Shhhh."

Soon Manny Casabielle, a tall, thin lawyer for Connolly, piped up. "My client is a former FBI agent," he said.

The room fell silent. One inmate, mouth open, swiveled his head toward Connolly. Other thugs uneasily glanced at him.

That guy? An FBI agent? In jail?

If they only knew the real story.

That Connolly is a legendary lawman and a Harvard graduate — a hero who helped take down the Italian Mafia in Boston. That he's charged with the 1982 murder of a hard-drinking wannabe gangster named John Callahan. That when Callahan's bullet-riddled body was found stuffed in the trunk of a Cadillac at Miami International Airport, a dime was placed on his stomach — heads up — an old-school way of saying, "Don't snitch."

Connolly was born in Boston on August 1, 1940, to a stay-at-home mom and a factory-worker father originally from Galway, Ireland. Like many of Boston's Irish immigrants in those days, Connolly's father preferred to live, work, and worship near others from the old country.

The Connollys lived on O'Callahan Way, a street tucked in the mazelike Old Harbor housing projects, a village of 34 brick buildings in the neighborhood of South Boston, known to locals as Southie. The projects were built in 1938 as part of the New Deal.

When Connolly was just eight years old, he went into a Southie ice-cream parlor with two friends. A slight, white-haired nineteen-year-old from the projects offered to buy the trio ice-cream cones. Connolly protested. His father told him never to accept things from strangers. The man told the kid that he wasn't a stranger. They were both Irish.

"What kind of ice cream do you want?" he asked.

"Vanilla," Connolly replied.

The man was James Bulger, whose nickname around Southie was Whitey because of his naturally white-blond hair. He had achieved notoriety several years earlier by heisting stuff from delivery trucks and keeping other hoods in line with his fists. Yet he had a soft side, often distributing free turkeys to the poor for Thanksgiving, leading some people to consider him a local Robin Hood.

Some 60 years later, that scene in the ice-cream parlor would be dramatized in The Departed, an Oscar-nominated movie by director Martin Scorcese (due out on DVD this week). Starring in the Connolly role: Matt Damon. A deliciously evil Jack Nicholson plays the Whitey-inspired figure.

“If they want to play checkers, we’ll play chess. Fuck them.”

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In real life, the young Connolly also befriended Whitey's brother Billy, whom he would sometimes follow home from the local Catholic church. Billy was a small, bookish kid who inspired Connolly to read. Still, like most of the boys in Southie, Connolly loved sports and played baseball. People remember how handsome the future FBI agent was in his uniform.

As they grew older, the disparate trio went their separate ways. Billy — short and bearing a strong resemblance to a leprechaun — became a local politician. Whitey — small, slight, and steely-eyed — went to Alcatraz and then Leavenworth prison after a bank robbery conviction in the 1950s. He would later tell people that while in the can, he volunteered to take LSD for a CIA experiment.

Connolly, meanwhile, attended Boston College and then Suffolk Law School at night. By day, he was a high school teacher. In the late 1960s, a friend of a friend introduced him to someone in the local FBI office, and the idea of being a G-man excited him. He took the federal test and passed. That was 1968. He was first assigned to San Francisco and then New York, but he went home briefly in 1970 to marry a local Irish-American girl from Southie, Marianne.

Then Connolly returned to New York for his job, where, in 1972, he netted a big fish: "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, a known Italian Mafia boss. The then-32-year-old agent chased Salemme through the streets of the Upper East Side and arrested him at gunpoint. Salemme was convicted of the attempted murder — a car bombing — of an attorney and sentenced to twenty years. The FBI rewarded Connolly with a transfer back to Boston, where he bought a home near his alma mater, South Boston High.

Being the new agent in the office, Connolly wanted to impress his bosses by solving another difficult case.

The agency's main target in those days was La Cosa Nostra — the Mafia — and Connolly knew of someone who had inside information about the Italian mob in Boston: Whitey. He, too, had returned to Southie; he had moved in with his mother back in the Old Harbor projects. Billy, his brother, had been elected to the Massachusetts Senate by this time (Connolly was one of his campaign workers) and had nine children.

Though Whitey worked as a janitor at a local school, he re-established ties with the underworld. In the early Seventies, Whitey plied his trade after school hours, extorting money from shylocks and bookmakers — often with brutal force. He and his buddies, known as the Winter Hill Gang, were in an all-out war with the Italians on the city's North End.

On September 18, 1975, Connolly asked Whitey to meet him on a beach several miles south of the city, in the shipbuilding town of Quincy, according to public records. As a full moon rose into the sky, the agent parked his old Plymouth in the empty lot. He could see the Boston skyline in the moonlight.

Then without warning, the passenger door swung open. It was Whitey.

"What the hell did you do, parachute in?" Connolly asked his old friend, who had parked on a side street and walked over. Out of respect, Connolly called him Jim, never Whitey.

The two men made small talk. About what, the records aren't clear. Then Connolly offered a proposal: "You should use your friends in law enforcement." Whitey, he suggested, should rat out the Italians.

Whitey mulled it over for a couple of weeks. The men met again at the same beach.

"All right," Whitey said, according to the Boston Globe, which published groundbreaking work about the Irish thug. "Deal me in." He had no love for the Italians and figured that informing on them would be better than fighting them in the streets.

"If they want to play checkers, we'll play chess. Fuck them."

Connolly's FBI superiors knew exactly what they were doing when they authorized him to use Whitey as an informant; other agents had tried for years to win over the mobster. Cops, politicians, and average citizens in Boston all knew of Whitey's violence and increasing influence in Boston's underworld. The police had been stymied by his ability to slip out of indictments; the politicians (especially his brother Billy) looked the other way; and the residents of Southie considered him a hero.

So to have attracted Whitey as an informant was a coup for the young agent. Connolly's superiors were proud of his work. Colleagues were a bit jealous.

Soon Whitey convinced a friend to snitch. Steve Flemmi was a double-chinned, lug-headed Irish-Italian from Southie. He had earned the nickname "The Rifleman" while serving in the Korean War — he was a particularly good killer — and that nom de guerre applied on the streets as well.

The pair seemed the least likely men in Boston to be rats.

Flemmi was six years Whitey's junior and one of the few people the gangster trusted. A curly-haired brothel owner, he was great with women (he liked young blonds and would later kill two of them) and even better with local gangsters; Italian Mafia leaders liked and confided in him, yet he wasn't a "made" man. And Flemmi was no stranger to the FBI. In the Sixties he had secretly fed another agent information about the largest family of Italian gangsters in New England at the time — and then evaded a murder indictment.

Between 1975 and 1983, Whitey and Flemmi gave Connolly enough information for a big arrest: the elderly Gennaro Angiulo, head of the Italian Mafia in Boston. Then the agent helped dismantle the Patriarca family, another big win. Thanks to his Irish gang friends, Connolly knew where the Italians were, what they were doing, and who they were talking about; the information given to him often led to wiretaps that captured illegal deeds.

Connolly got rave reviews from his superiors and reveled in the glory of the high-profile cases.

Perhaps too much.

"John was a dapper guy," says one high-ranking Massachusetts law enforcement official who is close to the case. "Well dressed, flashy, more than you would expect from an FBI agent. He wasn't your run-of-the-mill FBI agent. He knew all the power brokers." Indeed even Whitey poked fun at his foppishness; he would often call Connolly "Elvis" because the agent always perfectly combed his hair up and back.

Connolly's informant work certainly impressed the G-men in Washington, D.C., in the Seventies and Eighties. He was asked to lecture other agents about "informant development tactics and techniques" at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Meanwhile Whitey's criminal enterprise — loan-sharking, extortion, drug-dealing, bookmaking, murders of assorted underworld figures — continued without a hitch. His influence flourished to some degree because the Italians had been rendered impotent. And since Whitey also snitched on other, minor hoods in Southie, his competition was reduced.

Other law enforcement agencies tried to investigate and wiretap Whitey, but the operations always inexplicably failed. Whitey and Flemmi seemed untouchable. Many cops around Boston wondered just what kind of information was passing between the FBI and Whitey. "People suspected Connolly had a relationship with Flemmi and Bulger," commented the anonymous Massachusetts lawman. "There was no constraints put on him whatsoever in the handling of those informants."

But Connolly didn't operate in a vacuum, the official added. "There were a lot of others in the agency who enabled him."

One of Connolly's superiors, John Morris, was one such enabler. He would later testify that he hosted several dinner parties at his house for Connolly, Whitey, and Flemmi. Often, Morris said, they would all exchange gifts: a bottle of wine (Whitey nicknamed Morris "Vino") or $1000 in cash (so Morris could fly his girlfriend to meet him during an FBI conference).

This cozy situation might have continued in Boston if Whitey and Flemmi hadn't decided to expand their empire to Miami.

By day John Callahan worked as an accountant at a legitimate firm in Boston. By night he partied with gangsters including Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi. He was a tall, burly guy who was married to a nice girl in the suburbs and had two little kids. Like Whitey, he was Irish. And like Whitey, he had grown up in a working-class home just outside Boston. He also excelled at sports — at one time, he had been an Olympic weightlifter.

But Callahan was flashier than Whitey, who preferred to keep a low profile. The accountant liked fat cigars and Dom Pérignon, and had attended Yale.

According to public records, around 1980, Callahan was skimming money and laundering cash for Whitey through one of his accounts — World Jai-Alai, based in Miami. (It is now called Miami Jai-Alai.) Back then, it was owned by a rich investor named Roger Wheeler, who lived in Oklahoma. Wheeler trusted the people working for him because many were former federal agents. "I feel comfortable surrounded by FBI types," he told the Miami Herald in 1979. "We have six in the company here."

By 1981, Wheeler suspected that something shady was going on and called for an audit of the business's books.

But the audit was never finished. On May 27, 1981, Wheeler was gunned down on a golf course in Tulsa. Soon after the murder, a man named Brian Halloran came forward.

Halloran was a Boston street hustler, an alcoholic cokehead who did jobs for Whitey and occasionally the Italians. He told authorities that Callahan had offered him $20,000 to kill Wheeler, but he had declined the job.

He also implicated Whitey and Flemmi, and claimed to have information tying them to other murders. Some FBI agents — not Connolly — wanted to put Halloran in the witness protection program, but the request was denied. The cokehead didn't have enough evidence, FBI brass said.

Then in May 1982, Whitey and Flemmi gunned down Halloran in a spectacular midday ambush outside a Southie bar. Whitey drove a souped-up blue Chevy fitted with a smoke screen and an oil slick; he wore a light brown wig and a floppy mustache. It would later become clear that he liked wearing disguises when he killed people.

Soon cops in two states began looking for Callahan. At first, prosecutors contend, Connolly blocked access to the accountant. Then, they allege, he told Whitey and Flemmi that the Yale grad would "fold" and implicate them in the murders.

In court papers and through his lawyers, Connolly denies this. He claims he merely pumped his sources for information about the Halloran murder. The FBI agent had never even met Callahan; he had spoken to him on the phone once.

Indeed during this time, Connolly was attending a master's degree program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The agent was well liked by the other, bookish graduate students; they were awed when, after class, he would hold secret meetings with his gangster informants in Harvard Square. Connolly was elected president of his class — an unlikely role for a man plotting a murder.

John Martorano was one of Whitey's foot soldiers. He was a thick-faced, pug-nosed, stocky guy born in a Boston suburb in 1940. School wasn't easy for him — he was dyslexic — but he became captain of the Milton High football team. His athletic prowess would take him nowhere, though. He fell in with mobsters, who recognized his one shining talent: killing. He murdered a man for the first time when he was 24 years old. Dozens more corpses would follow.

Sometime at the end of July 1982, Whitey and Flemmi summoned Martorano to New York for a meeting. Callahan, the corrupt accountant, had to go, they said.

Martorano, in an uncharacteristic plea for mercy, argued that Callahan's life should be spared. He was a friend who often let the assassin stay at his South Florida condo.

Whitey and Flemmi insisted. Callahan must be killed.

So around July 30, Martorano lured the accountant to South Florida. The hit man rented a car and picked up Callahan, who was dressed in a white guayabera, tan pants, tan socks, and light brown loafers, at Fort Lauderdale Airport.

Somewhere near the Dade County line, Martorano shot Callahan in the head with a .22. He wanted to transfer the body to Callahan's car, a silver 1980 Cadillac, so it would look like he had been ambushed. But the vehicle was in storage.

So Martorano did what any tired killer would do. He drove to his victim's condo and went to sleep.

The next morning, the hit man removed the Cadillac from storage and transferred the body to it. When he noticed that his former friend was still moving, he shot him again. Then he drove to the short-term parking lot at Miami International Airport and parked.

On August 1 — John Connolly's 42nd birthday — a parking attendant noticed some thick, red liquid dripping from the rear of the Cadillac. Homicide detectives were summoned, and when they popped the trunk, they found a badly decomposed Callahan. There was no wallet or jewelry, only a candy wrapper, three .22-caliber casings, Chap Stick, a blue comb, and a towel.

Callahan had been shot five times.

The homicide report notes another detail: "a dime, which was resting on top of the victim's stomach (head up)."

Miami detectives knew they were onto a big case, one that probably led to the Mafia underworld. "It is felt at this time that the Wheeler, Halloran, and Callahan cases are connected," Dade County Det. Shelton Merritt told the Herald in 1982. "But it's going to take a long time. There's a lot of paperwork. This is going to be a very long case."

Merritt would retire before Callahan's murder was solved.

So would Connolly. He left the Bureau in 1990 a hero. The Boston media loved him — Connolly had courted the city's crime reporters and fed them juicy quotes for years. He posed for photos with Joe Pistone, the man who infiltrated the New York Mafia as Donnie Brasco. His FBI file was filled with commendations, including eight from a succession of FBI directors including J. Edgar Hoover and William Sessions.

During his retirement party — a packed affair attended by Whitey's brother Billy, who was then Massachusetts Senate president — Connolly quoted Roman poet Juvenal as he reflected on his 22 years with the Bureau. "Consider it to be the greatest of evils to prefer life to honor," Connolly recited in a thick Boston accent. "And for the sake of life to lose all reason for living."

Connolly then went on to thank the two people who had the most influence in his life: a local priest and Billy Bulger.

"I'm proud to call him my friend," Connolly said.

People in Boston remember Christmas of 1994 because of the nor'easter. The system began as a tropical storm in Florida on December 22 with high winds and heavy rain, and by the next day, the beginning of the fury had touched New England.

It was too warm to snow in Boston; this nor'easter was a freak winter-and-tropical-storm hybrid. But the city still suffered. Sideways rain and 80-mile-per-hour winds lashed the city. The 7300-pound Christmas tree at the Prudential Center toppled over, and a few miles away in Southie, a different kind of tempest blew into Rotary Liquors, a store on Old Colony Avenue: It was a nervous John Connolly.

"I've got to talk to you," the agent told the store's owner, Kevin Weeks, one of Whitey's top guys. Weeks, who was 37 years old at the time, was the closest thing the Irish mobster had to a son.

Connolly wore a sharp suit and tie despite the weather, and his silver hair, as always, was perfectly coiffed. By then he had nabbed a cushy job as head of corporate security at the local power company. Although Connolly was no longer an agent, he still kept in close contact with his FBI buddies and Whitey, prosecutors said. He had distanced himself from Southie by then. He was 54 years old and living in the Boston suburbs with his second wife and three young children.

Connolly's visit to Weeks wasn't just a holiday greeting. The storeowner had long been Whitey's bagman and enforcer, and he usually knew the mobster's whereabouts.

Connolly said that several bookies would soon be jailed. They had ratted out Whitey and Flemmi.

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Weeks recalls that he was surprised to see the former agent. They barely knew one another.

"I knew him cordially," said Weeks. "Before that day, I didn't have any real contact with Connolly."

The pair walked to the beer cooler in the back of the store. It was "the perfect place for a private conversation since it would be hard to bug because of the dampness, along with the humming of the fans and the whirring noise of the compressors," Weeks would later write.

After Weeks shut the door, Connolly said that several bookies would soon be charged with racketeering and extortion. Those bookies had ratted out Whitey and Flemmi; the pair had extorted money from them for years.

"The indictments are imminent," he said. "They're trying to put them all together over the holidays. That way they can pinch them all at once.

"Only four people in the FBI office know about these indictments."

It's unclear how Connolly had learned about the pending charges, but according to prosecutors, someone within the FBI office had leaked the information.

Weeks told his mob bosses. Whitey fled.

That was 1997. Flemmi was arrested. He was called to the stand the following year. Realizing the seriousness of the charges against him, he told the court that he and Whitey had been FBI informants for years.

Weeks heard this on the ten o' clock news one evening. "What the fuck?" he screamed at the television set. A year later he, too, would be indicted on extortion charges. He also cooperated with authorities and served only five years — after showing authorities where eight bodies were buried; all had been killed at Whitey's behest. He would recount his years with Whitey in a book called Brutal. He didn't want to write it — his bankruptcy lawyers advised him to do so ... and then give the proceeds to his victims. Yet it became a New York Times best seller, anyway.

Weeks is now 50 years old. The feds offered him a spot in the witness protection program, but he refused. Instead he returned to Southie. He is still as muscular as he was in the old days and still sports a curly head of hair — although now it is silver. He wears J. Crew sweaters and looks like a suburban soccer dad. He is soft-spoken, surprisingly so for a man who has seen so much violence. But he once told the Boston Phoenix that he trained himself to speak low because he didn't want his voice heard on wiretaps.

He still sounds stunned when he talks about feeling betrayed by Whitey and Flemmi. "It was incomprehensible," he says. "We had always said the criminals take the good with the bad. You don't give up your friends.... If you have enemies, you don't talk about them to law enforcement. Rather, you take it to the street and handle it that way. You don't rat on them and sic the law on them."

Martorano went on trial in Boston beginning in 1998 for murder, racketeering, money laundering, and gambling. The hit man eventually confessed to killing twenty people, including Callahan. (His testimony would also lead to the indictment of another retired FBI agent from Boston, H. Paul Rico, who had become chief of security at World Jai-Alai and was implicated in the murder of Jai-Alai owner Wheeler. Rico, formerly of Miami Shores, would die in prison in 2004 at age 78 while awaiting trial.)

The hit man hoped to reduce his prison time, and it worked: He gave so much information to prosecutors that he received a fifteen-year sentence. He will be out sometime this year, at age 66.

Flemmi, who is now 72 years old, also cut a deal. He wasn't as lucky as Martorano; he was spared the death penalty but received life in prison. He would later tell prosecutors and investigators about Connolly's alleged involvement with Whitey — the dinners, the wine exchanges, the tip-offs about the wiretaps.

In December 1999, Connolly was indicted on charges of racketeering, obstruction of justice, and lying to an FBI agent. Prosecutors said he had tipped off the mobsters before their indictments. Photos of him going to the new, red brick federal court building in Boston show a handsome, thin, silver-haired man in a nice suit, flanked by his younger, blond second wife, Liz. He pleaded not guilty, claiming he hadn't known that Flemmi and Whitey were committing such horrible crimes while they were informants — a notion that prosecutors scoffed at.

The trial lasted two weeks. The testimony of Kevin Weeks, the liquor store owner, was the most damaging. He recalled that Whitey had bragged about how he corrupted FBI agents.

On May 28, 2002, a federal jury convicted Connolly on four of the five counts. As the verdict was read in the courtroom, the former agent showed no emotion. His lawyers asked for leniency, noting that he had double hip replacements and that his three kids were showing signs of learning disabilities. And 200 people — from nuns to Southie residents to FBI agents — sent letters on his behalf.

Nevertheless, on August 7, Judge Joseph Tauro ordered the former G-man to serve a ten-year prison sentence. Minutes later, Connolly blew a kiss to his relatives seated in the courtroom's front row. He was escorted without handcuffs from the court and sent to a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky.

But that wasn't the end of Connolly's courtroom adventure. Though the federal jury had acquitted him of leaking information that led to Callahan's murder, he wasn't cleared of that matter.

Flemmi had testified in the federal trial that Connolly had not been involved in the killing. Then he changed his mind, striking a deal with prosecutors to acknowledge he had gotten it wrong in the federal case. The G-man had indeed leaked information, Flemmi said.

So three years after Connolly's trial concluded — and just a few days after his Boston lawyer filed an appeal — a Miami grand jury indicted the former agent on one count of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. In July 2005, Connolly was extradited to the subtropics.

One of the former agent's three lawyers in the Florida case is James McDonald, a neat, gray-haired guy who occupies a corner office on the 41st floor of the Wachovia Financial Center on South Biscayne Boulevard. Decorated with family photos and sailing memorabilia, McDonald's office has one of the best views in Miami: he can see the port, Key Biscayne, and the Atlantic Ocean from his desk.

McDonald, who is 62 years old and works for Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, was once special counsel to former Florida Gov. Ruben Askew, as well as a former Assistant U.S. Attorney. These days he is primarily a civil attorney. But he knows Connolly from way back; the two were rookie FBI agents in San Francisco together.

McDonald says he hadn't seen or heard from Connolly in some 30-odd years when a mutual friend, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, told him the former FBI agent was in trouble.

"People I know and respect said John had been hosed," comments McDonald, who has taken Connolly's case pro bono. He is convinced the former agent is innocent of all charges, especially the murder.

Connolly, he contends, is a "straight arrow."

"This is a guy who says his rosary every night," he explains. McDonald tells the story of how Connolly, while in federal lockup in Kentucky, solved a murder. Another inmate — a convicted drug dealer and gang leader — told the former G-man how he had killed someone eight years earlier. Connolly prepared memos and sent them to his lawyers. "Once an FBI agent, always an FBI agent," McDonald says. Soon the eight-year-old unsolved case was reopened. So far no charges have been filed.

McDonald questions how Connolly could have done his job without cozying up to Whitey and Flemmi. "If this government of ours ever gets serious about capturing Osama bin Laden, how do you think they're going to get close to him? They're going to use informants," the lawyer comments. "And those informants, well, we are going to be dealing with terrorists, people who have probably killed Americans. You don't catch criminals by sending out a bunch of altar boys."

Connolly’s trial will boil down to this: Will a jury believe three admitted murderers: Martorano, Flemmi, and Weeks?

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McDonald doesn't know why the government is unfairly targeting Connolly. But he has some theories. He believes that Fred Wyshak, the federal prosecutor in Boston, is overzealous, and that he convinced Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle to file the murder charge. "It serves a lot of people's careers to say John's a corrupt agent," McDonald states. "I've seen the power of government and what it can do."

One problem in trying the case: More than 200,000 documents relating to Connolly have been sealed by federal judges in Massachusetts and in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The reasons for the sealing, at least in state court, are unclear. Local prosecutors asked for it, citing an agreement with the feds in Boston. Judge Areces refuses to say why.

Even when the Congressional House Committee on Government Reform held hearings on FBI corruption and organized crime in 2003, D.C. lawmakers were unable to obtain some files. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and President George Bush cited executive privilege for not releasing the files. The Attorney General ultimately allowed committee clerks to look at — but not copy — the files.

"I get very nervous when I see the government asserting itself the way it does," McDonald says.

Connolly's trial date has been pushed back to October — which gives his lawyers more time to scrutinize allegedly new evidence that could exonerate him in Miami and win him a new federal trial in Boston. Flemmi, McDonald claims, lied. A Website called justiceforjohn.com has even sprung up. It includes some depositions that lawyers say the government didn't make public during the federal trial.

One witness's cooperation "was secured through the means of certain unlawful coercion, intimidation, and duress, including the threat that the prosecutors would make sure that he would ödie in prison' if he did not cooperate against John Connolly," according to testimony from "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, whom John Connolly had jailed long ago.

Flemmi likely wasn't threatened. But he lied nonetheless. During a 2005 deposition, six days before the Florida indictment, The Rifleman was asked whether Connolly "directly or indirectly" asked him to kill anyone.

No, he replied. He went on to say that he and Whitey never talked about their murders with the agent.

And Martorano, who confessed to pulling the trigger on Callahan, never said Connolly was involved in the slaying.

Connolly's trial will boil down to this: Will a jury believe the testimony of three admitted murderers: Martorano, Flemmi, and Weeks?

Lawyers on both sides agree it is one of the most unusual murder cases to be tried in Miami. After all, the man on trial never met the victim, wasn't in the state when the murder occurred, and didn't pull the trigger. Whether he is culpable for Callahan's murder is anyone's guess. Connolly's story doesn't unfold or end as neatly as the Southie-inspired movie, The Departed.

The two people who know the truth, not the Hollywood version, are Connolly and Whitey Bulger. Connolly refused to be interviewed for this story. And Whitey is still on the run. At age 78, he's on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, alongside Osama bin Laden.

"I don't think he'll ever be caught," Weeks says. "He's too smart."

Just last month, a man in San Diego called police after he supposedly spotted Whitey. He was in a movie theater, watching a screening of The Departed.

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