Former FBI supervisor John Morris thought he had left his sordid relationship with James "Whitey" Bulger back in Boston along with the envelopes of money, the cases of expensive wine, the home-cooked meals he had prepared for the accused mob boss.
"I wanted to break as many ties as I could with Boston," Morris told a federal court in Boston today. He transferred to FBI headquarters at Quantico, Va., and thought it was over.
Then the phone rang one night when Morris was working late. It was 1995 and Bulger had become a fugitive from justice, tipped off to a pending indictment by Morris' FBI underling, special agent John Connolly, who was also his best friend.
In the days before he picked up the phone, Morris testified, he had received messages from a "Mr. White." But Morris never thought he would hear the voice of the accused assassin.
But it was Bulger on the phone. And he was livid. A Boston newspaper had reported that Bulger was a longtime FBI informant, and Bulger wanted Morris to have the story retracted.
"He told me he wanted me to use my Machiavellian mind to contact my sources at the Globe to get them to retract the story about him being an informant," Morris told the court. "If I didn't, he said, 'Remember the box.'"
Morris knew the reference, he said on the stand. It was about $1000 in an envelope stuffed into a wooden box that contained imported wine, among the countless bribes Morris accepted from Bulger and another FBI informant, Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.
"He said if he was going to jail," Morris told the court, "I was going with him."
"Did you feel threatened after that call?" federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak asked Morris.
"Definitely," Morris he answered. In fact, the stress from the call caused Morris to go into "full cardiac arrest" a short time later.
Morris testified in the trial of Bulger, 83, who is accused of a string of crimes, including 19 murders. Testimony during the trial has stated Bulger ran a criminal enterprise with the help of corrupt FBI agents Connolly and Morris, and that Bulger was an FBI informant concerning his criminal rivals.
Morris took the stand after Bulger muttered obscenities under his breath at him, calling Morris a "f---ing liar."
The first day of Morris' testimony put a spotlight on a staggering amount of corruption in the Boston FBI field office that included cash bribes and tip-offs to wiretaps. Morris even admitted to talking about a cooperating witness against Bulger slated to go into the witness protection program who was murdered before the U.S. Marshals could move him.
"You were corrupt, weren't you Mr. Morris?" Bulger defense attorney Hank Brennan told the court.
"Yes," he replied.
But he wasn't the only FBI agent compromised. And Bulger was not the only informant who gave Morris money, he admitted on the stand.
Connolly's relationship with Bulger extended into the Massachusetts State House, Morris testified. As Bulger's informant status became critical to taking down Italian Mafia members, Connolly's stature in the bureau and on the streets of Boston, was also accelerated.
"He [Connolly] was almost showy in the way he dressed, in the way he carried himself," Morris told the court, adding that Connolly had taken to "wearing a lot of jewelry."
Connolly, Morris said, "had purchased and was refurbishing a home in South Boston." Connolly bought another house on Cape Cod and "had also acquired a good sized boat,"' Morris told the court.
"It appeared he was living beyond his means?" Wyshak asked of Connolly.
"Yes it did," he said.
Connolly had big plans, Morris said. His friendship with Bulger's brother, then Senate President William Bulger, would land him a job as the Boston police commissioner upon his retirement from the bureau and he was going to bring Morris with him as his second-in-command, he testified.
"Did you believe you would one day become the number two person in the Boston Police Department?" Wyshak asked.
"I thought it was possible," Morris answered.
Morris said Connolly's ties to the Bulger brothers could make that happen.
"He was connected to several politicians. He had a personal relationship with then-Senate president who he admired and respected," Morris told the court.
Connolly's behavior did not raise any eyebrows with the Special Agents in Charge of the Boston FBI field office, Morris told the court. In fact it was quite the opposite. FBI bosses sought Connolly's friendship, Morris testified.
"He had tremendous access across the board to everything including sports events, political figures, and actually for SACs during inspections are very judged on their contacts in the community," Morris testified.
Bulger's defense attorneys are expected to continue the cross examination of the former FBI supervisor tomorrow.