Thursday, July 26, 2007

Does $101 million compensate for four lives lost to a lying snitch?

Holy Cow!

Here's an important regional story that's not from Texas, but which casts a foul, new light on police who protect informants who then go out and commit heinous crimes. If you've never heard about the Whitey Bulger fiasco, to me it's perhaps the iconic American example of how police reliance on informants can go horribly awry. FBI agents protected their "supersnitch" Bulger and his compatriots as he spent decades working his way to the top of the Boston mob. Nobody knows where Bulger is now (probably dead, one imagines) but today AP reports on more fallout:
A federal judge [in Boston today] ordered the government to pay more than $101 million in the case of four men who spent decades in prison for a 1965 murder they didn't commit after the FBI withheld evidence of their innocence. The judge called the government's defense that the FBI had no duty to get involved because it was a state case "absurd."

Peter Limone, Joseph Salvati and the families of the two other men who died in prison had sued the federal government for malicious prosecution.

They argued Boston FBI agents knew mob hitman Joseph "The Animal" Barboza lied when he named them as killers in the 1965 death of Edward Deegan. They said Barboza was protecting a fellow FBI informant, Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi, who was involved.

The two of the four who survived their prison stints were wrongfully incarcerated until 2001 when "FBI memos dating back to the ... case surfaced, showing the men had been framed by Barboza."

Imagine having 33+ years of your life taken away from you by a liar, and you knew it, and nobody would believe you. What a Kafkaesque nightmare!

Unreal! You have to wonder: How could the federal agents who knew about this live with themselves? How can you ever repay what was taken from these four men with money? And how many more people have been wrongfully convicted to protect police informants?

UPDATE: In the comments to this post at Prometheus 6 a commenter who knew Barboza years ago discusses recollections. At Largely says "this is something you don't see in America," but personally I'd dispute that claim. said "I guarantee you that anyone who claimed that the FBI was withholding evidence that these 4 men were innocent was branded a 'liberal conspiracy theorist'." Fables of Reconstruction says the judgment doesn't seem like very much. TChris at TalkLeft said the plaintiffs were lucky to have an excellent judge, and Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice agrees.

RELATED: From Radley Balko, DEA Informant Admits to Lying


Anonymous said...

Surely, there's a special place in hell reserved for those FBI agents?

Anonymous said...

Asset forfeiture laws should apply to the government.

When the government conspires to violate the constitution or break the law the citizens should be able to seize the assets involved.

Anonymous said...

101 Million dollars of tax payer's money, no sweat to the government.

Prometheus 6 said...

Two of the wrongly convicted died in prison, by the way.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sorry if that wasn't clear, Prometheus 6, I'd tried to convey that fact with the clause, "The two of the four who survived their prison stints ...". Their estates were the parties in the lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

That Nancy Gertner had the case was crucial to the outcome. She's one hell of a judge. See

Unknown said...

Actually, similar police action in Iraq would be far more effective than our military [not saying much] and mistakes would cost a LOT less. Currently we are paying less than 5000 USD for Iraqi lives lost to US misconduct. I guess we factor in the "72 virgin discount". Maybe we should pay more for loss of female life - since having a virgin is not highly rated by women.

Michael said...

The victims' names were constantly plastered all over the news during their criminal trials and this civil case. So it's important to name names when we have police misconduct this egregious. The two FBI scum involved in this case were Dennis Condon and H. Paul Rico. Rico became good scum in 2004, when he died in jail -- awaiting trial on murder and conspiracy charges. As far as I can tell, Condon is still just scum.