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Ex-FBI Agent Who Helped Mob Boss Escape Turns Jailhouse Informant

The Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) - A fallen Boston FBI handler imprisoned for protecting fugitive mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger has become an informant after hearing a jailhouse confession from another prisoner who allegedly admitted to killing two potential witnesses, The Boston Globe reported Monday.

A police detective investigating the two killings says he finds John J. Connolly Jr.'s account of the alleged confession credible.

Connally has been in federal prison for 27 months, since he was sentenced in federal court in Boston for racketeering, obstruction of justice and lying to an FBI agent over his handling of Bulger and his gang.

When Connolly arrived at federal prison in Lexington, Ky. in Sept. 2002, Connolly's widely publicized story was well-known to his fellow federal inmates and he was treated like a member of the mob himself, said the Globe, which interviewed Connolly in prison.

He soon struck up a relationship with Cornelius Anderson, a 38-year-old convicted drug dealer and gang leader who had run a drug ring that bought an estimated 30 pounds of cocaine a month, converted it into crack and sold it on the streets.

Connolly and Anderson, who has 16 years left on a 28-year sentence for drug dealing, worked side-by-side in the same prison job and researched case law together in the prison library.

And Anderson also allegedly confided in Connolly.

Anderson told Connolly about how he had allegedly had Gail Duncan, a former drug addict and informant, killed in 1996 because she was about to testify in Anderson's drug conspiracy trial, according to the Globe. She was shot in her car in front of her 9-year-old daughter.

Connolly compared notes with another inmate, Robert L. Rankin, who was convicted of drug dealing and had arrived at the prison at the same time as Connolly. According to Connolly, Rankin described how Anderson admitted to killing Deron Cole, 20, a co-defendent of Anderson's.

Anderson allegedly had Cole killed because Cole had just pleaded guilty to lesser charges in return for a reduced sentence, and Anderson was afraid that Cole would talk, according to Connolly.

Thomas E. Clay, an attorney who represented Anderson during his trial, said he was unaware of his client's alleged confessions.

"I never had any information from Cornelius or anyone else that he was involved in those shootings," he said.

Connolly wrote to one of his Boston attorneys, E. Peter Mullane, about Anderson, and to Louisville police Detective Anthony L. Finch, the officer investigating the two murders. Finch interviewed both Connolly and Rankin several times.

"I knew that if I didn't do something, I would just be reinforcing what people thought of me," Connolly told the Globe in the prison interview.

Finch said he believes Connolly's information is credible.

"The bottom line is, the man's not lying and he's not wrong," Finch said of Connolly. "As far as this case goes, he has been nothing but helpful. He has been nothing but professional. And he has taken a lot of risks to his own life."

Finch said there's likely enough evidence to corroborate Anderson's role in Duncan's murder, but not in Cole's.

Federal officials, convinced that Anderson had become suspicious of Connolly and Rankin, transferred Rankin to state prison in Illinois, and Connolly to low-security prison in North Carolina.

But nearly 18 months after Connolly brought the information to Louisville police in May 2003, there's been no action taken on the case against Anderson.

Mullane said the risks that Connolly has taken "appears to be for naught" because there's been no follow up from federal authorities.

"Nothing has happened. It's been a waste of John's time and an unnecessary risk for him to take," Mullane said.

Connolly is expected to soon seek a new trial now that Francis Salemme, one of the mobsters who testified against him, who has been re-arrested and faces criminal charges of lying to federal agents about a 1993 killing.

Connolly admits that he hopes for a reduced sentence, but scoffed at the idea that a possible reduction was the only reason for turning over information about Anderson's alleged confession.

"I would have done this because we the right thing to do, period," he said. "In leniency had been my motivation, I wouldn't have risked my life without getting a promise in writing."

Connolly was the FBI's handler for Bulger, who thrived for decades in Boston's underworld as an informant. Connolly allowed Bulger to commit crimes in exchange for information that Connolly used to convict other mobsters.

Connolly was convicted for warning Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi to flee in advance of their 1995 indictment. Flemmi was captured. Bulger, 75, remains on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, with a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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