The arrest of longtime fugitive and Boston crime figure Whitey Bulger renewed heavy media interest in a convoluted story that spans decades – and which has some connections to Lynnfield as well.
In fact, John Connolly, the former FBI agent (and former Lynnfield resident) who was convicted and imprisoned in 2002 for helping Bulger avoid capture, among other offenses, is set to end a federal prison sentence next week in North Carolina - although he is still facing many years behind bars for other charges.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons database indicates that John J. Connolly, Jr., age 70, is expected to be released on Tuesday, June 28 from the Butner Low Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina – just about a week after the capture of the fugitive underworld figure he has known for much of his life.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons headquarters in Washington confirmed this release date, but a spokesman said he was unable to reveal exactly what facility Connolly is headed to next in the prison system.
In 2008, Connolly was convicted of second-degree murder and later received a 40-year sentence in connection with the 1982 slaying of businessman John Callahan in Florida. Before that killing, Connolly was said to have set the stage by warning Bulger that Callahan was possibly going to be questioned by the FBI - likely implicating Bulger and his Winter Hill Gang in various criminal activities, including murder.
At the time of his sentencing, many may remember the judge's widely-quoted statement that Connolly had crossed over to "the dark side" in assisting Bulger and his gang.
Connolly's former next-door-neighbor in Lynnfield (and brother-in-law), Arthur Gianelli, is also currently incarcerated at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution in New Jersey with a projected release date of March 22, 2025. He was sentenced to 22 years in 2009 for numerous charges connected to organized crime activities.
One of the crimes Gianelli was convicted of was trying to extort the owners of the Big Dog Sports Grille, which occupied the site that would later become the Bostonville Grille on Route 1 in Lynnfield. He and his associates were also charged with trying to burn down the Big Dog Sports Grille location in North Reading.
Gianelli's wife, Mary Ann, pleaded guilty in 2009 to 19 counts, including racketeering, money laundering and other charges involving her husband's illegal gambling activities. The federal prisons website indicates that she was released on June 2, 2010. She had initially faced additional charges but reached a plea agreement at the time.
The Connolly and the Gianelli homes sit on a small cul-de-sac off Main Street a short distance down the road from the Lynnfield Middle School. The land for those houses was reportedly obtained at the time from another Boston organized crime associate named Rocco Botta.
Connolly spent more than two decades as a highly accomplished and respected FBI agent and was instrumental in bringing down numerous Boston mafia figures during that time.
With that in mind, Connolly does have a network of friends and supporters who are still working to have him exonerated. Earlier this year, more than 100 retired FBI agents asked the U.S. Department of Justice to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the circumstances leading up to his conviction.
Also, the website JusticeForJohn.com provides court documents and other background information, citing various flaws in the prosecution's case.
As far as Bulger goes, Massachusetts residents will see him back in the state soon following his appearance in a California court following his capture.
"Although there are those who doubted our resolve, it never wavered," said Boston Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers in a statement on Thursday. "We followed every lead, we explored every possibility, and when those leads ran out we did not sit back and wait for the phone to ring."