FBI agent serving time for Miami murder gets a new release date

Former FBI agent John J. Connolly during his 2008 trial for murder in Miami.
Former FBI agent John J. Connolly during his 2008 trial for murder in Miami. MIAMI HERALD

John Connolly, the notorious former Boston FBI agent convicted of helping gangsters engineer the killing of a gambling executive in Miami, has a new possible parole date: early 2039.

He would be 98 years old.

Florida’s parole commission made the ruling during a brief hearing on Wednesday in Tallahassee. Connolly was not present for the hearing, although his younger brother, James Connolly, attended the hearing.

Connolly was a star FBI agent in the 1970s, and one of his informants was James “Whitey” Bulger, the leader of a violent group known as the Winter Hill Gang.

Their twisted relationship became crime lore in Boston, and served as the loose basis for the 2006 movie “The Departed.” Johnny Depp played Bulger in a Black Mass, a 2015 film about the gangster.

Bulger spent 17 years as a fugitive before he was captured outside Los Angeles in 2011. He is now doing life in prison.

As for Connolly, a federal jury in Massachusetts convicted him 2002 for protecting Bulger’s gang from prosecution and tipping them about informants in their ranks. He was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in that case, a sentence already completed.

In the South Florida case, jurors convicted Connolly of murder for telling Bulger and his cohort that an executive with a jai-alai operation in Miami might cooperate in the probe of an earlier mob murder.

The mobsters dispatched a hitman to fatally shoot the executive, John Callahan. His corpse was discovered in a Cadillac trunk at Miami's airport. During a riveting trial in Miami in 2008, a host of underworld figures testified against Connolly.

Miami jurors convicted Connolly of second-degree murder with a firearm. Without the added gun element, the crime in the early 1980s carried only a four-year statute of limitations.

But prosecutors had asked the court to "reclassify" the crime to second-degree murder with a firearm — making it a felony punishable by up to life in prison, with no statute of limitations. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

A divided panel of three Miami appeals court judges tossed his conviction, but it was later restored. The Florida Supreme Court declined to review his case, leaving his sentence intact.