A former FBI agent convicted of second-degree murder for leaking information to Boston gangster James Whitey Bulger that led to the 1982 shooting death of a gambling executive can be released from prison on medical grounds, officials ruled Wednesday.
The Florida Commission on Offender Review voted 2-1 in favor of releasing John Connolly, who has cancer and advanced diabetes and is believed to have less than a year to live.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
Connolly, who was Bulger’s FBI handler, was convicted in 2008 over the killing of World Jai Alai President John Callahan in Fort Lauderdale in 1982. Connolly tipped Bulger and another gangster, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, that Callahan was about to implicate the gang in another killing, authorities said.
"It is not unusual for an inmate who is terminally ill and deemed no longer a threat to society to be released t o home confinement," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement. "While the damage caused by John Connolly's corrupt relationship with James Bulger and others can never be forgiven, and Connolly has been shown compassion and consideration that his victims were not, we agree with the sentiments of Mary and Patrick Callahan that Connolly should be permitted to die at home with his friends and family."
Connolly is currently being held at the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, Florida. He is expected to be released either Friday or Monday and will head directly to the Boca Raton Cancer Center for inpatient care, according to his attorney.
Connolly also served nearly 10 years in prison after being convicted in 2002 of racketeering and obstruction of justice for protecting members of Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang from prosecution and tipping them about informants in their ranks. Connolly and Bulger’s relationship helped inspire the 2006 Martin Scorsese film, “The Departed.”
Bulger, who spent 16 years as one of America’s most wanted men before being arrested in California in 2011, was killed in federal prison in West Virginia in 2018.