By remaining silent as to their knowledge that a witness was lying, the FBI caused the conviction on murder charges against several defendants, and ensured they spent decades in prison. As the NY Times (AP) reports here:
A federal judge Thursday ordered the government to pay more than $101 million in the case of four men who spent decades in prison for a 1965 murder they didn't commit after the FBI withheld evidence of their innocence.
The FBI encouraged perjury, helped frame the four men and withheld for more than three decades information that could have cleared them, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner said in issuing her ruling Thursday.
She called the government's argument that the FBI had no duty to get involved in the state case ''absurd.''
Peter Limone, Joseph Salvati and the families of the two other men who died in prison had sued the federal government for malicious prosecution.
They argued that Boston FBI agents knew mob hitman Joseph ''The Animal'' Barboza lied when he named the men as killers in the 1965 death of Edward Deegan. They said Barboza was protecting a fellow FBI informant, Vincent ''Jimmy'' Flemmi, who was involved.
The four men convicted on Barboza's lies were treated as ''acceptable collateral damage'' because the FBI's priority at the time was taking down the Mafia, their attorneys said.
A Justice Department lawyer had argued that federal authorities couldn't be held responsible for the results of a state prosecution and had no duty to share information with the officials who prosecuted Limone, Salvati, Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco.
''The FBI's misconduct was clearly the sole cause of this conviction,'' the judge said Thursday. ''The government's position is, in a word, absurd.''
''No lost liberty is dispensable. We have fought wars over this principle. We are still fighting these wars,'' Gertner told the packed courtroom.
Salvati and Limone were exonerated in 2001 after FBI memos dating back to the Deegan case surfaced, showing the men had been framed by Barboza. The memos were made public during a Justice Department task force probe of the FBI's relationship with gangsters and FBI informants James ''Whitey'' Bulger and Stephen ''The Rifleman'' Flemmi.
Hat Tip to Rachel Brill for pointing this out to us.
UPDATE: You can find Judge Gertner's lengthy opinion in Limone, et al. v. US here.