(BOSTON) — Corrupt former FBI supervisor John Morris teared up Monday as he addressed the widow and two sons of a man who was killed because he allowed an informant’s name to be leaked to accused Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger.
Morris testified for the third day Monday morning in Bulger’s trial. Bulger, 83, is accused of being the South Boston boss of the Winter Hill gang and is charged with a 32-count indictment that includes 19 murders, including the execution of Brian Halloran and Michael Donahue.
Halloran had gone to the FBI for help, agreeing to testify against Bulger in exchange for federal protection. But before the U.S. Marshals could move Halloran into the witness protection program he was shot dead along with Donahue, who had offered him a ride.
Morris began to tear up Monday as he glanced toward the court pews where Donahue’s widow, Patricia, has sat every day of the trial flanked by her sons Thomas and Michael.
“I don’t ask for your forgiveness, but I do want to express my sincere apology for things that I have done and things that I didn’t do,” Morris told the court. His eyes watered as he held his gaze steady toward the Donahues. “Not a day I my life has gone by that I haven’t thought about it this. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t prayed that God give you blessing and comfort. I am truly sorry. I do not ask for your forgiveness. That’s too much.”
Bulger’s lawyer Hank Brennan said to Morris that in allowing Halloran’s name to be leaked to Bulger, “You knew you were signing Mr. Halloran’s death warrant.”
“No,” Morris testified. “I thought he was safe.”
Morris has testified that he made meals for Bulger and at one he accepted an envelope stuffed with $5,000. There was also testimony about cases of expensive wine Bulger gave Morris, including one delivered to the basement of the John F. Kennedy federal building and another that had an envelope with $1,000 in cash. Morris’ penchant for wine prompted Bulger to give Morris the nickname “Vino.”
“You know this cost a citizen his life, don’t you Mr. Morris?” Brennan asked. “How much did that bottle of wine cost?”
Brennan pointed out that after Halloran was killed and another man was charged with his murder, Morris kept quiet.
“Yes, sir,” Morris testified.
“The reason why we pay you to work for the federal government is to solve the crime for the families, is that correct?” Brennan asked.
“I’m sure that’s part of it,” Morris answered.
“But you were more worried about yourself?” Brennan asked.
“Yes,” Morris told the court.
Bulger — with the help of the FBI — ran a criminal enterprise in Boston for decades that earned him “millions upon millions upon millions,” of dollars, his defense attorney J.W. Carney said in his opening statement. The Boston FBI’s organized crime unit, with Morris at the helm, took down Bulger’s rivals and warned the Winter Hill gang of pending indictments and state police wiretaps to keep the underworld group in power, according to Morris and Bulger’s lawyers.
Morris and Connolly lined their own pockets, lived like mobsters with fancy dinners and flashy jewelry, and gained entre into the circles of the political elite of the Massachusetts State House via Bulger’s brother, former Senate President William Brother, prosecutors and Morris have said.
In fact, Morris testified, he and fellow FBI agent John Connolly expected to be appointed to head the Boston Police Department with William Bulger’s help. Connolly would be appointed commissioner, and Morris would be his second-in-command, Morris told the court.
Morris’ testimony has shed a spotlight on a staggering amount of corruption in the Boston FBI office at the time. FBI agents have been accused of taking bribes, writing false reports, tipping off criminals to investigations, and undermining other law enforcement agencies.
Bulger’s attorneys continue to insist that Bulger was not an informant, but paid for information from Morris and Connolly. Brennan asked about a phone call Morris received at his desk at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va., from Bulger in 1995 shortly after the mobster was indicted and stories emerged in the Boston Globe that he was an informant. Morris said the call stressed and intimidated him enough that he went into cardiac arrest a short time later.
“Do you remember during that conversation that Mr. Bulger said he was not a rat?” Brennan asked Morris.
“He said he didn’t want to rat on me,” Morris said.
Morris was also compromised in his home life, he testified. Bulger helped him maintain his affair with his FBI secretary Deborah Noseworthy, buying her a plane ticket to visit her boss at a FBI training session in Georgia, the disgraced FBI supervisor told the court. Morris is now married to Noseworthy and living in a Florida retirement community and still collects his FBI pension.
He was granted immunity for the crimes he committed while working for the federal government and admitted he signed off on bogus reports that were disseminated to other law enforcement agencies, and other FBI agents, to protect himself and Connolly.
“I didn’t want anyone to know about my bad behavior,” Morris told the court.
Jurors are expected to hear about phone calls Bulger has made from the Plymouth County Correctional Center this week. Bulger has been jailed in the segregation unit there since his 2011 arrest at a Santa Monica hideout where he lived with his longtime companion Catherine Greig since 1994.
After Bulger’s threatening call, the one that led him to have a heart attack, Morris testified, he got promoted. As Bulger settled into an apartment just blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, Morris became the Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge of the Los Angeles FBI field office overseeing the public corruption unit.
“The DOJ thought you were well qualified for that position? Were you?” Brennan asked Morris.
“Yes I was,” Morris told the court.
That promotion came after Morris confessed his corrupt relationship with Bulger and the bribes he took from other FBI informants to his superiors.
The Los Angeles FBI office is less than six miles away from Bulger’s hideout where he and Greig lived as Charlie and Carol Gasko for more than 15 years.
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