June 29, 2011 11:43AM

Judge Mark Wolf, Criminal Informants, and the FBI

Judge Mark Wolf gets some well‐​deserved recognition in a New York Times editorial today for his spectacular effort to bring some accountability to the FBI scandal involving gangster informants. Here’s an excerpt:

The judge uncovered that John Connolly Jr., the F.B.I. agent who was their handler, had protected Mr. Bulger, a 15‐​year informant, and Mr. Flemmi, a 25‐​year informant, as they committed murder and conspired with the Mafia, in exchange for leads about the Mafia. It was Mr. Connolly who tipped off Mr. Bulger that he was about to be indicted and sent him on the lam. Judge Wolf testified against the F.B.I. agent at a 2002 trial before another judge. Mr. Connolly was sentenced to 10 years for racketeering, obstruction of justice and making false statements to investigators.…

Judges are supposed to dispense justice but rarely root out crimes. As a result of Judge Wolf’s courage and persistence, the government has paid more than $100 million in claims to families of people murdered by informants shielded by the F.B.I. There is no good evidence that the F.B.I. has set up independent oversight of its informants program like what the judge called for. It’s high time.

It’s a good editorial that’s on the mark. Of course, in a just world, Judge Wolf’s picture should have been on the cover of the Times, not the fugitive who is thought to be responsible for countless crimes.

And in a just world, the corrupt FBI agent, John Connolly, would have had to pay for his own legal expenses. Even though he had more than a million dollars in assets (pensions, vacation home, power boat, etc), a federal magistrate said he was “indigent” and that taxpayers should pay for his legal defense. Not a public defender, mind you, but a top law firm in Boston. Just one of the many sordid aspects of the whole affair.

Here’s a link to Judge Wolf’s exhaustive ruling. Here’s a link to a Cato event that I hosted on this scandal.