Hollow justice

By DAVID BOERI  |  October 5, 2011

Asked when he expected to complete the report, Durham said three or four months, but not later than the spring of 2001.

When spring came, I asked where the report was. Durham just smiled. A year passed, and after Connolly was convicted in 2002, Durham told reporters, "Nobody in this country is above the law, an FBI agent or otherwise." I asked where his report was. Silence was my answer.

For three years, Durham's Special Task Force of outside FBI agents conducted its investigation out of an office at 18 Tremont Street. It spent millions of dollars on thousands of hours of interviews of over a hundred cops, agents, criminals, and attorneys.

Eleven springs have now passed. Former US Attorney Stern, who once said, "They're going to leave no stone unturned," recently told me he doesn't know if a report was ever filed. "I left office beforehand," he said. His successor, Michael Sullivan, wouldn't say if there's a report. And the Department of Justice has never confirmed if it ever received a report. Nor has Durham ever responded to my inquiries. At the end of the day, Durham got one ex-FBI agent convicted.

And the only reason he went after Connolly "is that he had to," says retired State Police Colonel Tom Foley, who led the state police/US Drug Enforcement Administration team that made the investigative case against Bulger without the FBI and despite its opposition.

Foley's team, along with federal prosecutors Fred Wyshak and Brian Kelly, had developed all but one of the major witnesses Durham used to convict Connolly. Foley and his team were convinced they had enough evidence to convict other FBI agents as well.

"Don't tell me some other FBI supervisors couldn't be held accountable," said Foley. "There were a number of areas where [Durham and his investigators] could have gone farther than they did."

One prosecutor familiar with the case was even more blunt: "John Durham is a company man. He knew what his assignment was — to convict Connolly. And he stopped there."

Even if prosecutors had determined they couldn't go after other corrupt agents because statutes of limitations had run out, filing an investigative report and making a full accounting of wrongdoing would have fumigated the institutions. Everyone, including the US attorney, recognized that Connolly could not have acted without the help of other FBI agents.

Four state and local cops, plus Fitzpatrick, said they were each interviewed by Durham's team. Each laid out evidence of wrongdoing by FBI agents in the Boston office, along with names of those who could corroborate their statements. But in every case, the cops say, the account of the interview submitted to Durham's office (which the cops got to see) failed to note their most serious allegations.

Without a report by Durham, of course, despite the cost and promise, attorneys for the families of Bulger and Flemmi's victims were also deprived of evidence that could be used in their civil suits against the government who married itself to the mobsters.

Today, 12 years after Wolf's remarkable hearings and report, we are no closer to a reckoning of the three decades of institutionalized corruption between Bulger and what he liked to call the "Bulger Bureau of Investigation." Sensational testimony and allegations during those hearings led us to believe that either trials or investigative reports to follow would officially document and uncover the underlying rot. The blithe assurances of Durham and others notwithstanding, that hasn't happened. And it's not likely to happen in Bulger's coming trial.

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Related: Whitey Bulger and the Feds: The final act, BOOK EXCERPT: Just Don't Clip Anyone: First days as an informant, Brass balls and cold steel, More more >
  Topics: News Features , Crime, Santa Monica, Whitey Bulger,  More more >
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  •   HOLLOW JUSTICE  |  October 05, 2011
    When Whitey Bulger was arrested in Santa Monica, California, this summer, it may have seemed that a new day had dawned for the local FBI and for the Justice Department.
    I get a lot of calls about Bulger, but this one was different.

 See all articles by: DAVID BOERI