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‘Whitey’ Bulger won’t help man claiming wrongful conviction

Frederick Weichel was led into court in August.
Frederick Weichel was led into court in August.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File

In a series of letters three years ago, convicted gangster James “Whitey” Bulger wrote that Frederick Weichel had been wrongly convicted of a 1980 slaying in Braintree, as Weichel himself has long contended.

So to help Weichel in his bid for a new trial, Deborah McCauley Chin, a South Boston native who now lives in New York, recently sent Bulger a direct, heartfelt plea on her friend’s behalf.

“He has paid for someone else’s crime for over 35 years,” she wrote. “Please do the right thing, and help this innocent man.”

She asked Bulger to detail what he knew about Robert LaMonica’s murder in an affidavit, saying it was heartbreaking that Weichel, 64, of South Boston, had spent more than half his life in prison.

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But in a rambling response sent early last month, Bulger spurned her appeal, even as he wrote that Weichel had “suffered a fate Worse than Death.”

“I have never testified against any man, have never caused any man to be put in prison,” wrote Bulger, whose lawyers spent much of his 2013 trial trying to refute evidence that he was a longtime FBI informant who provided information on his rivals in the Mafia, as well as members of his own gang.

“I too have been falsely accused” of crimes, Bulger wrote in the letter, which was recently provided to the Globe.

Bulger, 87, is serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Florida for participating in 11 murders, drug trafficking, extortion, and other crimes while running a sprawling criminal organization from the 1970s to the 1990s.

In the four-page handwritten letter, Bulger said he was sympathetic to Weichel’s plight but would not provide an affidavit or any sworn testimony on his behalf, saying he had not even testified at his own trial.

“I never fought my case,” he wrote. “Waste of time.”

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Bulger also took aim against a number of targets — a prosecutor who helped build the case against him, corrupt FBI agents who took money from him and leaked him information, and former associates who received leniency for their own crimes in exchange for testifying against him.

His one-time friends had lied on the stand, he said, accusing him of murders that they had committed.

Bulger boasted that he had “corrupted many” but identified just two former FBI agents: John J. Connolly Jr., who is serving a 40-year prison sentence for his part in a 1982 murder with Bulger; and John Morris, an organized crime supervisor who admitted taking cash and gifts from Bulger and was granted immunity for testifying against Bulger and Connolly.

Bulger wrote that his former sidekick, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, testified that they paid Connolly $142,000, but “I say higher.” (Flemmi actually testified at Bulger’s trial that they gave more than $230,000 in payoffs to Connolly over a decade).

Bulger said he would not identify LaMonica’s true killer, describing him only as a boxer who was close friends with Weichel. Weichel’s only hope was that “his friend has some courage” and comes forward on his own, he wrote.

“I wont name him or force him — Just as I choose not to tell the truth in my trial about certain incidents even though the guilty lied — Strange Perhaps but that’s what I felt the thing to do — Keep Silent in a Corrupt Trial.”

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He signed the letter, “No Regrets J.B.”

In the margin of the letter, Bulger scrawled, “Free Fred!”

In a telephone interview from the state prison in Norfolk, Weichel said an affidavit from Bulger would probably “hurt me more than help me.” Neither he nor his lawyers knew Chin had written to Bulger until she shared his response with them, he said.

“He’s never going to come forward to help me,” he said. “Even if he wanted to, his credibility would be zero. Who’s going to believe him?”

Weichel has contended in previous court filings that Bulger had a hand in framing him for LaMonica’s slaying.

Attorney Michael D. Ricciuti, a partner in the Boston law firm K&L Gates who is representing Weichel without charge, with assistance from the New England Innocence Project, said Bulger’s letters “don’t do us any good unless there’s a witness to testify to them.”

Even if Bulger were willing to testify, Ricciuti said he wouldn’t be eager to call him as a witness.

“He does come with a little bit of baggage,” he noted wryly.

LaMonica, 25, was gunned down outside his Braintree apartment shortly after midnight on May 31, 1980. Weichel was convicted the following year, largely on the eyewitness testimony of a teenager who briefly saw the gunman jump into a waiting car and later identified Weichel.

In August, Superior Court Judge Raymond P. Veary Jr. held hearings on Weichel’s claim that he did not get a fair trial because prosecutors failed to turn over a police report that identified another potential suspect, the late Rocco Balliro. Prosecutors argue that the report was not connected to the case.

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Expert witnesses for the defense also testified that the teenager was standing too far away from the shooter to see his face. The judge has yet to rule on Weichel’s motion.

While the recent hearings did not focus on Bulger, he has repeatedly been cited in court filings.

Defense lawyers submitted letters Bulger wrote to an unidentified friend of Weichel’s in 2013, in which he claimed that the boxer confided to him in 1980 that he was scared because he had badly beaten a man in a street fight and the victim’s friend, LaMonica, was vowing revenge.

“He wanted my advice,” Bulger wrote. “ ‘What would I do?’ I told him get him first, kill him . . . if you dont get him first I’d say he will get you.”

In court filings, Weichel’s lawyers said Bulger was apparently referring to Thomas Barrett. In 2004, a judge granted Weichel a new trial on the basis of a 1982 letter Barrett purportedly wrote to Weichel’s mother, confessing that he had killed LaMonica.

Two years later, however, the state Supreme Judicial Court overruled the judge, keeping Weichel in prison.

Barrett refused to testify at earlier court hearings, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

Chin was only 10 when Weichel, a family friend, went to prison, but she has been writing to him for years. She said she never met Bulger but thought he “might want to do the right thing” if he knew Weichel was seeking a new trial.

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But Bulger said he had not been following recent developments in Weichel’s case.

“I’m here in a prison cell,” Bulger wrote. “I make no phone calls and am computer illiterate.”


Shelley Murphy can be reached at shelley.murphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.