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Ex-FBI boss apologizes to Bulger's victims' families on stand

July 1, 2013 at 2:33 PM   |   Comments

BOSTON, July 1 (UPI) -- A disgraced former FBI supervisor apologized in court to families whose loved ones were allegedly killed by reputed Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.

John Morris, a supervisor in the Boston FBI field office in charge of investigating organized crime in the area, admitted he passed information to another FBI agent who handled Bulger about an informant in an investigation into an Oklahoma murder in which Bulger played a role.

The informant, Brian Halloran, was a Bulger associate and Morris told Bulger's FBI handler John Connolly. It was known at the time FBI agents were passing tips onto Bulger and allowing him to act with impunity, prosecutors say in exchange for money or gifts. In return, Bulger passed information to the FBI on associates and rivals in the Boston underworld.

Bulger's defense team denies he acted as an informant and that FBI agents fabricated tips from Bulger as a way to justify the bribes he gave them to avoid arrest.

Bulger has been charged in a sweeping 19-count racketeering indictment that alleges he had a role in at least 11 killings, drug trafficking and a host of other criminal activities.

The Boston Globe said Monday Morris became visibly emotional while testifying about the incident when prosecutors allege Bulger ordered a hit on the informant, Halloran. A second man, Michael Donahue, with no connection to the mob underworld but who was giving Halloran a ride, was also killed when Bulger's gang allegedly sprayed the car with bullets, killing both men.

"Not a day goes by that I don't pray that God gives you blessing and comfort for the pain," Morris said to the Donahue family, seated in the front row. "I do want to express my sincere apology for things I did, and I didn't do. I do not ask for forgiveness -- that's too much. But I do acknowledge it publicly."

Bulger's defense attorney Henry Brennan challenged Morris on the stand, that he gave up Halloran's identity to Connolly as a slip of the tongue.

"It was spontaneous. It just happened, and I wish it hadn't," Morris said.

Brennan countered: "You knew if the information got out, you knew that could lead to danger. ... You knew when you were giving Mr. Connolly this information, you knew you were signing Mr. Halloran's death warrant."

Morris is testifying after striking a deal with prosecutors who offered him immunity from criminal prosecution on corruption charges. Morris has admitted to accepting $7,000 in cash and several gifts from Bulger and his top lieutenant, Steve "The Rifleman" Flemmi. Morris retired from the FBI in 1995, the same year federal indictments were handed down against the former heads of the Winter Hill Gang.

Outside the courtroom, Donahue's widow Patricia said she thought Morris was sincere in his apology and said it is the first time anyone from the FBI apologized to her for her husband's death.

"I don't forgive it," she said. "Their 'sorries' come too late."

In still more dramatic testimony Monday, Morris vehemently denied a defense team accusation he asked Bulger to kill his estranged wife while they were getting a divorce.

Bulger's attorney, Henry Brennan, asked Morris about the exchange.

"Did you ask Mr. Bulger to do something about your wife?" Brennan asked.

"Absolutely not," Morris said.

"Do you remember Mr. Bulger telling you he'd have nothing to do with it?"

"Absolutely not," Morris said. "There was no such conversation."

© 2013 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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