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Metro

Attorney wants John Connolly released

John J. Connolly Jr. stood after a hearing in Miami in 2008.

AP/flie

John J. Connolly Jr. stood after a hearing in Miami in 2008.

A lawyer for former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. argued Thursday that there are no grounds to reinstate his murder conviction for a 1982 gangland slaying and urged a Florida appeals court to swiftly pave the way for his release.

Connolly’s lawyer urged the Third District Court of Appeals to reject a request by the Florida attorney general’s office for a rehearing of Connolly’s case by all 10 judges on the appeals court or a ruling that would allow a possible review by the state’s Supreme Court.

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“There are no grounds for rehearing because this Court has considered all of the pertinent facts and legal issues and the majority’s decision is consistent with over two decades of settled Florida law,” Connolly’s lawyer, assistant public defender Manuel Alvarez, wrote in a motion filed in the appeals court. “As there are no reasonable grounds to further delay the conclusion of this appeal, the Appellant [Connolly] respectfully requests that this Court rule on the State’s motion for rehearing on an expedited basis.”

Connolly, 73, was convicted by a Miami jury in 2008 of second-degree murder with a gun for leaking information to long-time informants James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi that prompted them to orchestrate the 1982 slaying of Boston businessman John B. Callahan in Florida.

Callahan, a Boston businessman with ties to Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang, was being sought for questioning by the FBI. Flemmi said Connolly warned the gangsters that Callahan probably would implicate them in the 1981 slaying of World Jai Alai owner Roger Wheeler.

Last month, a three-judge panel of the Florida appeals court overturned Connolly’s conviction, ruling 2-1 that it was barred because in 1982 there was a four-year statute of limitations for second-degree murder in Florida unless a gun was used. The court found that because Connolly was not the triggerman, and in fact was on Cape Cod when Bulger’s associate John Martorano shot Callahan to death, the trial judge should not have instructed jurors that if they did not find Connolly guilty of first-degree murder, they could consider the lesser charge of second degree murder while using a firearm.

Prosecutors had argued that the conviction should stand because Connolly was carrying his FBI weapon while meeting with Bulger and Flemmi as they plotted Callahan’s murder.
Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.
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