A Florida appeals court on Wednesday overturned the 2008 murder conviction of John Connolly, a former FBI agent linked to mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled that Connolly was improperly convicted of second-degree murder for his role in a 1982 mob hit tied to Bulger. Connolly was sentenced to 40 years in prison in the Miami slaying of John Callahan, a Boston businessman and president of World Jai-Alai, a sports betting operation.
In a 2-1 vote an appeals court panel of judges vacated Connolly's second-degree murder conviction after it determined that the trial judge improperly allowed prosecutors to enhance the murder charge with a firearm allegation.
Without the addition of the firearm allegation Connolly's conviction would have been barred by the statute of limitation, the appeals court found.
The second-degree murder charge carried a statute of limitation of four years. But the charge of second-degree murder with a firearm reclassified the crime to a life felony, with no statute of limitations.
Connolly, a veteran FBI agent who retired in 1990, recruited Bulger as a mob informant. In 2005 he was indicted on murder charges in Florida, accused of leaking information to Bulger and another mob boss that led to the killing of Callahan.
Connolly proclaimed his innocence; he had lost a previous appeal to overturn the murder conviction in 2011.
Bulger, 84, was sentenced in November by a federal judge in Boston to two life terms plus five years for 11 murders, as well as racketeering, extortion and drug dealing, while he ran Boston's Winter Hill crime gang in the 1970s and 1980s.
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