Former FBI supervisor Robert Fitzpatrick, who faces sentencing this week for lying on the stand at James “Whitey” Bulger’s trial, is getting some support from a former colleague.
A retired agent sent a letter to US District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, saying that it would be wrong to send Fitzpatrick to prison for perjury and obstruction of justice when the Justice Department failed to bring charges against a number of law enforcement officials suspected of protecting the gangster from prosecution or helping him commit crimes.
“Others including FBI and United States attorney’s office personnel should have been prosecuted, however, I feel that Mr. Fitzpatrick is not one of them,” retired FBI agent Matthew J. Cronin wrote in the letter, which was filed with the court July 14.
Cronin, who called Fitzpatrick a scapegoat, wrote that the former agent was “anti-Bulger” when they worked together in the FBI’s Boston office in the 1980s and questioned why the US attorney’s office was “soft” on the gangster.
Saylor will decide at a sentencing hearing Friday whether to accept a plea agreement calling for two years probation and a $12,500 fine for the 76-year-old Fitzpatrick, who pleaded guilty in May to six counts of perjury and six counts of obstruction of justice for testimony that exaggerated his accomplishments and assisted the defense.
In an unusual move, one of the jurors who helped convict Bulger of murder and racketeering in 2013 has also written to the judge, urging him to let her speak in Fitzpatrick’s defense at his sentencing hearing.
Janet Uhlar, a nurse who lives in Eastham, wrote in a letter filed with the court Thursday that she cried only twice during Bulger’s trial: after a prosecutor’s “vicious” cross-examination of Fitzpatrick and after learning that former Bulger associate Kevin O’Neil spent a year in prison.
Uhlar did not mention her friendship with Bulger in the letter, but was quoted in a Cape Cod Times article in September saying that she liked Bulger “as a person,” had received 35 letters from him, and had visited him at a federal prison in Florida last year.
A spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office declined to comment on the letters.
Former assistant US attorney Brian T. Kelly, who was part of the Bulger prosecution team and cross-examined Fitzpatrick, declined to comment on Uhlar’s letter, but said, “personally, what I found most upsetting during that trial was seeing the skeletal remains of Bulger’s murder victims.”
Bulger, 86, is serving a life sentence for participating in 11 murders while running a vast criminal organization from the 1970s to the 1990s that raked in millions from drug trafficking and extortion. He was captured in Santa Monica, Calif. in 2011 after 16 years on the run.
Fitzpatrick, who served as an assistant special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Boston office from 1981 to 1986, was called to the stand by the defense. He admitted he lied when he told jurors that when he met Bulger in 1981 to determine whether the FBI should keep using him as an informant, the gangster stunned him by saying, “I’m not an informant.”
He also admitted lying about other matters, including when he testified that he urged his superiors to drop Bulger as an informant in 1982, and when he claimed he found the rifle used to assassinate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis in 1968.
In a brief telephone interview, Cronin said he believed it was “an injustice” to target Fitzpatrick, when the Justice Department failed to pursue allegations of wrongdoing by others after properly prosecuting Bulger’s longtime handler, John J. Connolly Jr., for racketeering.
Cronin, who was also subpoenaed by the defense at Bulger’s trial, testified that he warned the FBI in 1982 that an informant, Edward “Brian” Halloran, was in danger, but it failed to protect him. Bulger shot and killed Halloran, and an innocent man, Michael Donahue, who was giving him a ride home at the time.
Federal authorities have said statute of limitations problems and a lack of evidence prevented them from seeking charges against other agents accused of wrongdoing, which included giving Bulger C4 explosives, leaking him information, and taking cash and gifts from him.
Kelly, now a partner at Nixon Peabody, said the government had to hold Fitzpatrick accountable for his false testimony, noting, “what’s truly appalling is when an FBI agent commits perjury in federal court while testifying on behalf of a psychotic killer like Whitey Bulger.”
Fitzpatrick had portrayed himself for years as a whistle-blower who tried to stop the FBI’s corrupt relationship with Bulger. He testified on behalf of the families of several of Bulger’s victims in wrongful death suits against the government, and coauthored a 2012 book: “Betrayal, Whitey Bulger and the FBI Agent Who Fought to Bring Him Down.”
“It’s a sad case,” said New Hampshire attorney William Christie, who represented the families of two of Bulger’s victims in wrongful-death suits and believes Fitzpatrick testified truthfully in those cases. “Everyone who touches Bulger ends up with dirt on them.”
Shelley Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.