Jim Cusack: A major weapon in fight against crime, still unused
The Witness Protection Programme that resulted from Guerin's death hasn't been exploited fully, writes
THE star witness in the case against the Irish-American gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger, currently under way in the US District Court in Boston, is Johnny Martorano, a professional hitman, who admits to 10 murders and other crimes. In return for agreeing to testify against his former associates, Martorano received a deal in which he served just 12 years in prison before being given a new identity and placed in the US witness protection scheme.
In return for his deal, Martorano gave evidence against the corrupt FBI agent John Connolly, who was an associate of Whitey Bulger's and complicit in murder. Connolly was sentenced to 40 years' imprisonment in 2008. Martorano is now giving evidence against ageing gangster Bulger as part of his deal. Bulger is charged with 19 murders.
Since the Seventies, United States law enforcement agencies have placed accomplice witnesses at the core of prosecutions against the Mafia and other organised crime gangs. Viewers of the TV series The Sopranos will be familiar with the paranoia inspired in the heart of organised crime by the use of the 'Rico' (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organisations) Act 1970, which allows law officers to do protection deals with gang members in order to put away their more serious associates. The Italian Mafia in the US was defeated by Rico, and only tiny remnants remain.