A lawyer for James "Whitey" Bulger hammered former Federal Bureau of Investigation supervisor John Morris on Friday over his social ties to the alleged mobster that included presiding over dinner parties.
Hank Brennan of Boston's Carney & Bassil spent four hours over two days cross-examining Morris, who supervised former FBI agent John Connolly Jr., himself convicted in 2002 and sentenced to a decade in prison for racketeering, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI about Bulger and his associates. In 2011, Connolly started serving a sentence on a 2008 second-degree murder conviction.
Morris acknowledged that during 1990s talks with government officials about gaining immunity for his testimony, he didn't initially disclose taking $7,000 in bribes from Bulger. "I was worried about everything surfacing — whether or not I could be prosecuted at the time," Morris said. "I did not want my bad behavior known in any manner, shape or form."
Morris acknowledged twice declining to speak with the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility.
The government claims Bulger was a long-time FBI informant who provided information about the underworld in exchange for freedom to operate his South Boston criminal empire. He was indicted on 32 counts, including two of racketeering, two of conspiracy, 23 of money laundering and five firearms-related charges. His alleged participation in 19 murders, extortion and drug distribution underpins the racketeering charges.
Bulger was caught in Santa Monica, Calif., after nearly 16 years on the run. Longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig was sentenced to eight years in prison for harboring a fugitive.
Morris ultimately did win immunity. He also testified during 1998 pretrial hearings for Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme that exposed widespread corruption in the Boston FBI during the 1970s and 1980s. Salemme pleaded guilty to racketeering in 1999.
Under questioning this week, Morris indicated he was hiding an even bigger burden that the bribes. He told Connolly that Brian Halloran was a cooperating informant shortly before Halloran was gunned down in 1982. Bulger is accused of killing Halloran and Michael Donahue, an innocent bystander who was giving Halloran a ride home from a bar.
"You told Mr. Connolly about Halloran," Brennan said.
"That was the biggest concern," Morris replied.
Morris said that while he had no direct role in those slayings, he "had concerns about how that might be interpreted."
He admitted that he initialed an FBI document that blamed the Massachusetts State Police for leaking information about Halloran's status as an informant. "I didn't know it wasn't accurate. I suspected it wasn't accurate," Morris said.
Morris, who described Connolly as his best friend at the time and like a big brother, admitted signing off on many reports containing false information about Bulger and his associate, Stephen Flemmi.
Morris acknowledged taking a case of wine from Bulger. He said his 8 to 10 meetings with Bulger and Flemmi were social. On three occasions, he cooked dinner at his home for a small group that included Connolly, Bulger and Flemmi.
"Did you think it was strange that you were cooking dinner for an organized crime figure in your home?" Brennan asked.
"It was different, yes," Morris replied.
Sheri Qualters can be contacted at email@example.com.