by J.M. Lawrence
Sunday, June 17, 2001
Congressmen probing whether the Boston FBI tried to quash commutations for two innocent men want former Massachusetts parole board members to testify about alleged intimidation they faced after backing Peter J. Limone's bid for freedom in 1983, committee sources said.
Almost 20 years after enduring a state police investigation and ethics probe when he backed Limone, former board member Michael Albano now feels some satisfaction from the House Government Reform Committee's phone calls.
“It's a good feeling,” said Albano, who is now mayor of Springfield. “But during that investigation, it was not a good feeling.”
Albano is prepared to tell the committee that he got a private visit from then-FBI agents John Connolly and John Morris who suggested he reconsider his vote for Limone.
Limone and five other men were found guilty of the 1965 gangland murder of Edward “Teddy” Deegan.
Faced with documents uncovered during a Department of Justice corruption probe, a Cambridge judge ruled earlier this year that the FBI hid evidence in the case that would have exonerated Limone.
He was released after 33 years in prison, including several years on death row before the state eliminated the death penalty.
The FBI's own confidential informant reports showed that Limone, Joseph Salvati, Louis Greco and Henry Tameleo were innocent in the Deegan murder. Greco and Tameleo died in prison.
Limone's case was the first to hit the parole board.
“I voted my conscience,” board member Richard Luccio told WCVB-TV (Ch. 5.)
Albano also concluded the facts did not support Limone's conviction, he said.
“There was no other case in my 12 years where there was that type of involvement by the federal bureau and the U.S. Attorney's Office,” he said.
Luccio, Albano and the three other members of the board who backed Limone all became targets of a state police investigation into whether organized crime had influenced their votes, WCVB-TV first reported on May 30.
All five were eventually cleared.
“I got a letter from the governor saying I was cleared of any wrongdoing, however, we want to see if the Ethics Commission has any issues so there's a second investigation,” recalled Albano, who was 32 then and had just become a father.
Although state police investigated the parole board members, a former FBI agent who played a key role in the Deegan case was in charge of the Department of Public Safety at the time, the Herald has learned.
Former FBI agent Dennis Condon, who testified during the Deegan murder trial and bolstered the false testimony of the government's star witness Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, was the No. 2 man at Public Safety when the State Police Office of Public Investigation conducted the parole board probe, sources said.
Condon's attorney, Henry Schuelke III, was not available for comment.
Barboza later recanted his testimony.
The House committee led by Indiana Republican Rep. Dan Burton plans to call on Condon to testify about the commutations, sources said.
The committee previously called Condon, 74, to testify at a May hearing on Salvati's case but Condon did not appear, citing a medical condition. Defense attorneys for the men who were convicted in the Deegan murder contend the FBI was intent on keeping the men in prison to cover their tracks in an unconstitutional war on organized crime.
“They were willing to trade lives for what they perceived to be the greater good,” said Boston defense attorney Joseph Balliro, who represented Tameleo.
Salvati's attorney, Victor J. Garo, first asked the parole board for a commutation in 1985.
The board backed Salvati but delayed its vote after the Boston FBI told the chairman Salvati was facing a new indictment on loansharking activities while in prison, Garo has told Congress.
No indictment was ever issued against Salvati.
Salvati later received a unanimous vote for commutation in 1989 but then-Gov. Michael Dukakis did not act on the recommendation.
Gov. William Weld also turned down Salvati's commutation in 1993, saying Salvati had a long history of organized crime - a claim hotly disputed by his attorney and unsubstantiated by
Weld later reversed course and approved Salvati's release in 1997. Salvati spent 30 years in prison.
U.S. Rep. William Delahunt (D-Quincy), who is assisting the committee with the probe, said Congress needs to ask Dukakis and Weld about their decisions.
“We've got to find out from Governor Weld why he made that statement and where did he receive that information,” Delahunt said.
The committee has subpoenaed records from acting Gov. Jane Swift relating to the prior administrations' handling of the cases.