John Morris, former head of the FBI's Boston office, faced cross-examination in federal court where he admitted on Thursday he had accepted a total of $7,000 in bribes from Boston's Winter Hill gang leaders James "Whitey" Bulger and Steven "The Rifleman" Flemmi.
The defendant in the case, former Special Agent John J. Connolly, acted as the agency's handler of Bulger and Flemmi as underworld informants against rival members of the Mafia.
Morris said Connolly introduced him to the two gangsters in the late 1970s at a dinner at Morris's home.
In 1981 Connolly presented him with a case of fine wine in the garage of the FBI's Boston office, Morris said. He said Connolly said the wine was a gift from Bulger and Flemmi, but he was reluctant to accept it.
Morris testified Connolly told him: "'You need to take this. If you don't take it, they're going to think you don't trust them.'"
Morris said in 1986 he accepted more wine and an envelope from Bulger containing $5,000 in cash.
He said he repaid the gangsters by tipping them off that an informant, later gunned down, had offered to link Bulger to a 1981 slaying, and also to another FBI investigation.
Morris, in sometimes-tearful testimony, admitted he publicly disgraced himself as his dealings with the gangsters were exposed in 1998. Granted immunity, he became the government's key witness against Connolly.
The government said Connolly broke department rules by ignoring the criminal activities of his informants, including committing murders, in exchange for information against the Mafia.
Connolly, who retired from the agency in 1990, also is accused of tipping Bulger and Flemmi off to FBI investigations against them, information the government alleges led to three slayings -- Brian Halloran and Michael Donahue in Boston in May 1982, and John Callahan in Miami in August 1982.
Connolly also is charged with tipping Bulger and Flemmi off to an indictment charging them with racketeering in 1995. While Flemmi was eventually arrested, Bulger fled and remains at large as one of the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted criminals.
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