The former rogue FBI informant handler for mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger will be released from a Florida prison on a conditional medical release, a spokesman for the Florida Commission on Offender Review told CNN.
John Connolly was released because he has terminal cancer, his attorney, James E. McDonald, told CNN.
“We are pleased,” McDonald said. “John is 80 years old, he has cancer, and from my perspective, he’s been wrongfully convicted. Which is why I’ve been representing him for free for 15 years.”
Two of the three commissioners on the Commission on Offender Review agreed to let Connolly out of prison, spokesperson Angela Meredith told CNN.
“It’s unclear when he will be released, but the release is in process,” Meredith said, though Connolly’s attorney said it could happen as early as Friday.
Connolly and Bulger
In 1995, Bulger fled an impending racketeering indictment after Connolly tipped him off to the charges, an event that helped inspire the Oscar-winning 2006 drama “The Departed.”
In 2005, Connolly was charged with first-degree premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. During his 2008 trial, prosecutors presented evidence that in 1982, Connolly, then an FBI agent, schemed with Bulger and the Winter Hill gang to kill businessman John Callahan. It was revealed in court that Connolly, Bulger and associates met over several weeks before the slaying, but it was “undisputed” that hit man James Martorano, and not Connolly, fired the murder weapon.
The jury convicted Connolly of second-degree murder with a firearm, a lesser included offense of first-degree murder.
His conviction was overturned in 2014 but reinstated after the government appealed and had the full appeals panel reevaluate, McDonald told CNN. McDonald says he is waiting to see whether a judge will grant the request for a new trial due to new evidence that McDonald says prosecutors didn’t previously share.
Bulger was killed in a federal prison in West Virginia in 2018, hours after he was transferred from a facility in Florida. He was 89.
Massachusetts US attorney says release isn’t unusual
Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling said it is not unusual for a terminally ill inmate who is deemed no longer a threat to society to be released to home confinement.
“While the damage caused by John Connolly’s corrupt relationship with James Bulger and others can never be forgiven, and Connolly has been shown compassion and consideration that his victims were not, we agree with the sentiments of Mary and Patrick Callahan that Connolly should be permitted to die at home with his friends and family,” Lelling said in a statement.
CNN’s Taylor Romine contributed to this report.