Ex-FBI agent sentenced to 40 years in 1982 killing

MIAMI (AP) -- Former FBI agent John Connolly was sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison for slipping information to Boston mobsters that led to the 1982 shooting death of a Miami gambling executive.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stanford Blake imposed the sentence after rejecting defense claims that a four-year statute of limitations had expired on Connolly's second-degree murder conviction in the killing of 45-year-old John Callahan. Blake said a motion on that issue was filed past a 10-day deadline but was probably legally correct - meaning an appeal is certain.

"You can't be convicted when the statute of limitations has expired," said Connolly attorney Manuel Casabielle.

Prosecutors disagreed.

"We think the sentence will stand, as will the conviction," said Assistant State Attorney Michael Von Zamft. "We believe Judge Blake is incorrect in his assessment of the law."

Connolly, 68, showed no emotion when the sentence was announced. Under laws in effect when the killing happened in 1982, Connolly may only serve about a third of the 40 years, prosecutors said.

Connolly is already serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for his corrupt dealings with Boston's Winter Hill Gang. Blake said the state murder sentence will run consecutively to the federal term, which is set to end in 2011.

Callahan was fatally shot July 31, 1982, by mob hit man John Martorano, who has admitted the killing. Callahan's body was stuffed into the trunk of his Cadillac and discovered a few days later at a Miami International Airport parking lot.

Martorano and other Winter Hill figures testified that Connolly regularly tipped them off to potential "rats" or snitches within their own ranks, sometimes leading to their untimely demise. In Callahan's case, Connolly supposedly said the former World Jai-Alai president would probably implicate the mobsters in the 1981 murder of an Oklahoma businessman who owned the gambling business.

In return for his tips, prosecutors said Connolly was given inside information by Winter Hill chieftains James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi that led to high-profile FBI takedowns of bosses in Boston's rival Italian-American Mafia. That made Connolly a highly decorated FBI star.

Blake said Thursday that Connolly had "tarnished the badge" through his corrupt dealings with mobsters.

"You left law enforcement. You forfeited that badge that so many people wear proudly," Blake said. "For an FBI agent to go to the dark side is a sad, sad day."

The statute of limitations issued focused on the use of a gun in Callahan's slaying, which provides for an enhanced penalty and thus no time limit on prosecution. Prosecutors argued it wasn't necessary for Connolly to possess the actual murder weapon for the gun enhancement to apply, while defense lawyers said it was an essential element - and Blake concluded Connolly was correct.

But the judge said Connolly's attorneys didn't file their motion on the issue until Dec. 2, well past the deadline of 10 days after the Nov. 6 jury verdict. Blake decided he had no jurisdiction because of that technicality and said he would welcome an appeals court review.

"I made my rulings on what I thought the law required. Anything the state or defense wants to file, they are free to file," Blake said.

Connolly's defense focused on the difficult job of investigating organized crime, on how FBI agents are forced to deal with unsavory characters to win larger victories. Connolly did not testify at his trial but insisted at a subsequent hearing that he had nothing to do with the Callahan killing.

"I never have, and I never would, knowingly say anything that would cause harm to come to any human being," Connolly said Dec. 4.

While Flemmi and other Boston gangsters have admitted their roles in many murders and other crimes, Bulger remains a fugitive on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. Testimony indicated that he disappeared following a 1995 tip from then-retired Connolly that a grand jury was about to indict him on racketeering charges.

The Winter Hill saga was the loose basis for the 2006 Martin Scorsese film "The Departed," with Matt Damon in the crooked cop role and Jack Nicholson playing a Bulger-like Irish-American gangster.

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