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Mobster tells of gang payoffs to FBI

May 16, 2002 at 9:03 AM   |   Comments

BOSTON, May 16 (UPI) -- The defense attorney for a former FBI agent on trial for racketeering attacked the credibility of a former underworld enforcer who testified the agent was the go-between for gang payoffs to FBI officials and Boston police.

Tracy Miner, defending retired Special Agent John J. Connolly Jr., was to resume her cross-examination Thursday of Kevin J. Weeks, who told a federal jury in Boston about routine payoffs from South Boston-based Winter Hill Gang boss James "Whitey" Bulger.

"He (Bulger) used to say Christmas was for cops and kids," Weeks testified on Wednesday. After his arrest on racketeering charges in 1999, Weeks cut a deal with prosecutors to testify in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.

Bulger's longtime sidekick testified Christmas payoffs one year included some 30 envelopes, including one stuffed with $5,000 for Connolly.

Four other FBI agents also routinely received Christmas gifts from Bulger, Weeks testified.

He identified them as James Ring, John Morris, Nicholas Gianturco and John Newton.

Weeks also testified it was Connolly who provided the information that prompted Bulger to flee on the eve of his arrest on federal racketeering charges in January 1995.

Connolly, who had retired four years earlier from his job in the FBI's Boston office, came to the Winter Hill Gang's headquarters in a South Boston liquor store on Dec. 23, 1994, to warn Bulger and his co-leader, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, of their imminent arrest, Weeks said.

Weeks said he immediately passed that information along to Bulger, prompting Bulger to flee that day. Bulger remains at large and on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Flemmi remained in the area and was arrested on Jan. 5, 1995.

Connolly, 61, is charged with racketeering and obstruction of justice for allegedly protecting Bulger and Flemmi, the gang leaders he recruited and handled for years as underworld informants for the FBI against the rival Italian Mafia.

Connolly also is accused of tipping them off to the 1995 indictment and leaking information about investigations against the gangsters, tips that allegedly led to three killings.

The information that allowed Bulger to flee came from the second-in-command in the Boston FBI office, Dennis O'Callaghan, Weeks testified he was told by Connolly.

O'Callaghan, who is expected to testify later in the trial, denied he ever talked to Connolly about the indictments prior to Flemmi's arrest and Bulger's skipping town.

"It's absurd," O'Callaghan, who retired in 1996, told the Boston Globe. "What in hell would be my motivation to tell John anything about indictments?"

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Miner, Weeks insisted that he was telling the truth. She questioned him about his plea agreement with the government to get a reduced sentence for racketeering, extortion and being an accessory to five killings.

Weeks did admit that he once joked to investigators that in exchange for immunity, he'd confess to "killing Kennedy."

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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