Ex-FBI Agent Back in Court

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John Connolly – a 66-year-old retired FBI agent who is awaiting trial in Miami on murder charges – told a judge Tuesday that his lawyer, Manny Casabielle, wasn’t spending enough quality time with him.

“I have no problem with his ability to defend me,” Connolly told Judge Barbara Areces in his thick Boston accent. “It’s whether he has the time to defend me.”

To be fair, Connolly could have a platoon of lawyers, and even then, they might not have the time to defend him. His case is one of the most unusual and complex ever seen in Miami’s county courthouse.

Here’s the condensed version: Connolly is accused of murdering John Callahan, who was found shot to death at the Miami Airport in 1982. But Connolly didn’t pull the trigger; lawyers for the state say that Boston mobsters killed Callahan after Connolly tipped them off that Callahan was going to inform on the mobsters. Prosecutors also say that Connolly got too close to one of his informants – infamous Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. (The Oscar-winning movie “The Departed” was loosely based on this saga). Prosecuting the case is none other than Assistant State Attorney Michael Von Zamft, who handles the office’s organized crime cases.

Connolly, who is from Boston, was convicted in federal court in 2002 of racketeering and obstruction of justice charges. He’s been in lockup since then, and he’s now facing the murder charge in Miami.

On Tuesday, he said that he has not received thousands of pages of documents relating to his case, and that even if he receives them, neither he, nor his lawyers, may have time to review them before trial, which is scheduled in the fall.

“There’s no way that any ordinary human being could get a handle on the myriad of complex issues involved in this case,” he told Judge Areces. She asked him if he wished to dismiss Casabielle as his lawyer. No, he replied.

And so ended that part of the hearing. But Connolly’s lawyers – who include a former FBI agent – launched into a request for a 1979 FBI memo that has been kept secret under “executive privelege” by the Justice Department, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and President Bush.
Judge Areces promised she would review the memo to determine whether it contained evidence that Connolly should have.

An Assistant U.S. Attorney from Boston told Areces she could have a copy of the memo – if she shredded it afterward. A special agent from the Department of Justice was also in the courtroom, and he made a copy for the judge – he wouldn’t even allow the baliff to make the copy. “Did you see that?” an incredulous Casabielle said to the media in attendance. --Tamara Lush

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