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The Florida Third District Court of Appeals Wednesday overturned a murder conviction and subsequent 40-year prison sentence for former FBI agent and James “Whitey” Bulger associate John J. Connolly Jr.
Connolly was convicted in 2008 for the second-degree murder of businessman John Callahan. The hit man, who admitted to killing Callahan said that he was hired to do so only after Connolly warned Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi that Callahan planned testify against the two mobsters for a separate murder charge.
For his connection to the Callahan’s murder, the former FBI agent was sentenced to 40 years behind bars.
The appeals court ruled that the second-degree murder conviction was affected by the statute of limitations at the time, leading to the prosecution’s improper use of a firearm charge to allow for “reclassification” of a life prison sentence — for which the statute of limitations did not apply.
“Connolly’s conviction for second-degree murder with a firearm should not have been reclassified to a life felony in order to circumvent the statute of limitation,” wrote the court in its majority opinion. “Without the fundamentally erroneous reclassification, the first-degree felony of second-degree murder was time-barred.”
Connolly will remain in prison for the time being while the prosecution seeks an appeal.
Justin Scuiletti is the digital video producer at PBS NewsHour.
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