Friday, November 17, 2006

Trial begins over FBI role in wrongful convictions

There's no question that the FBI recruited notorious hitman Joseph "The Animal'' Barboza as a witness against local Mafia leaders, then turned him over to state prosecutors in a case that led to the wrongful conviction of four men for a 1965 gangland murder in Chelsea. But Thursday, on the first day of a civil trial seeking more than $100 million in damages from the federal government, a Justice Department lawyer insisted the FBI can't be blamed because state prosecutors were responsible for investigating and trying the case. "The FBI is not liable,'' said the government attorney, Bridget Bailey Lipscomb.

But lawyers for Peter Limone, Joseph Salvati, Henry Tameleo, and Louis Greco accused the FBI of making a "mockery'' of justice by failing to tell state prosecutors or defense lawyers about evidence that suggested Barboza had framed the four men for the slaying of small-time hoodlum Edward "Teddy'' Deegan. Limone, 72, and Salvati, 74, spent more than 30 years in prison before they were exonerated five years ago, while Greco and Tameleo both died in prison.

"The FBI initiated the prosecution by delivering a perjurious witness to the state prosecutor, knowing his testimony was false,'' said Boston attorney Juliane Balliro, who represents Limone and Tameleo's family. "But for the deliberate misconduct of the FBI, these men would not even have been indicted, let alone convicted for the murder of Edward Deegan.''

The lawsuit accuses the government of malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision of FBI agents, conspiracy, and loss of consortium by the men and their families.

Deegan was gunned down in a Chelsea alley in March 1965, but local police were unable to solve the slaying until the FBI struck a deal with Barboza. He was sentenced to a year in prison for his role in Deegan's murder and his testimony led to the 1968 conviction of the four men. Tameleo, Limone, and Greco were initially given the death penalty, then later sentence to life. Salvati was also sentenced to life in prison.

Report here


A former bookie who served more than 32 years for an underworld murder he said he didn't commit was released Friday after his conviction was thrown out at the request of prosecutors. Prosecutors said newly discovered FBI files from the 1960s cast doubt on 66-year-old Peter Limone's guilt. It appeared to be yet another embarrassment for the FBI's Boston office, which is under scrutiny for some agents' allegedly cozy relationships with the mob.

Last month, Justice Department investigators looking into allegations of corruption in the office gave Limone's lawyer secret FBI reports from the time around Edward ``Teddy'' Deegan's 1965 murder. The documents showed that an informant had given the FBI a list of suspects that did not include Limone's name. Limone was convicted in part on the testimony of mob hitman Joseph ``The Animal'' Barboza, one of the names on the list.

Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle on Thursday ordered Limone released without bail, criticizing the FBI for withholding information that could have led to Limone's acquittal. ``It is now time to move on,'' the judge said. ``Mr. Limone's long wait is over.'' About 50 friends and relatives of Limone broke into applause at the ruling.

Prosecutors would not say Friday whether they plan to retry Limone. The former prosecutor and defense attorneys in the Deegan killing have said they didn't know about the FBI informant reports at the time of the trial. An FBI spokeswoman declined comment Friday.

Outside the courtroom, surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren, Limone said he was bitter about his 32-year incarceration and accused the FBI of framing him. ``I'm just happy that I have my family still and they've been with me all this time,'' Limone said. ``Every day you look at it, and every day you know you're innocent, but you wait for this day.''

Prior to his murder conviction, Limone had once been reputed to be a Mafia associate, but only had been convicted of running a dice game, said his lawyer, John Cavicchi.

A motive for Deegan's slaying remains murky. Among the speculation that arose is that he was targeted in a mob hit after he and two friends allegedly robbed the home of the wrong man. Since the new information from the FBI files was publicized, two lawyers who had underworld clients have stepped forward to say their clients - who have since died - told them innocent men had been convicted.

At the same time, the Justice Department is investigating FBI ties to reputed mob boss James ``Whitey'' Bulger and his lieutenant Stephen ``The Rifleman'' Flemmi. FBI agent John Connolly was indicted last year on charges he took gifts from Bulger and Stephen Flemmi and tipped them off to the identities of FBI informants and witnesses who were later murdered. He is also accused of warning Bulger of an impending indictment, prompting him to flee in 1995. Bulger is on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, and Flemmi is awaiting trial on murder charges.

Report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

No comments: