Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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February 18, 2014

Mass. man says Bulger framed him, seeks new trial

BOSTON (AP) — A man who has spent more than three decades in prison for murder is asking for a new trial, claiming he has corroboration for his claim that gangster James "Whitey" Bulger framed him.

Fred Weichel says Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi told federal prosecutors last year that Bulger urged a corrupt FBI agent not to tell authorities he saw Weichel at a bar shortly before Robert LaMonica was fatally shot in 1980. Weichel's lawyers say that alibi could have made a big difference at his 1981 trial.

Weichel, now 62, also says records turned over by Braintree police in 2010 suggest that someone else had been identified as a possible suspect.

"The bottom line is he didn't do it," said Boston attorney Michael Ricciuti, a former federal prosecutor whose firm has been working with the New England Innocence Project and is representing Weichel for free.

"It's clear that there is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. They can say a jury convicted him — that is factually true — but the standard is if a jury had all the evidence we have now, would it make a difference? There is no way you can look at that and say let's indict Weichel. It just doesn't make any sense."

Ricciuti said Flemmi gave the information to prosecutors last February as they were preparing for Bulger's racketeering trial. Flemmi was a key witness against Bulger, who was convicted of playing a role in 11 murders and sentenced to life in prison.

According to an excerpt from a letter Weichel's lawyers received from a prosecutor, Flemmi said he was at former FBI Agent John Connolly Jr.'s home when Bulger told Connolly "don't get involved" in the Weichel murder case. Flemmi says Bulger knew Connolly had seen Weichel in a Boston bar at about 12:15 a.m., around the time prosecutors believe LaMonica was shot outside his Braintree apartment.

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