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Men framed by FBI, jailed for years, to be awarded $101 million


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Judge Orders Government to Pay $101M for Wrongful Convictions in 1965 Murder Case


Thursday, July 26, 2007





BOSTON ? The FBI helped frame four men for a 1965 murder and withheld information that could have cleared them, a federal judge ruled Thursday in ordering the government to pay $101.7 million for the decades they spent in prison.


"The FBI's misconduct was clearly the sole cause of this conviction," U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner said in issuing her ruling in the civil lawsuit.


She called the government's argument that the FBI had no duty to get involved in the state case "absurd."


Peter Limone and Joseph Salvati, who were exonerated in 2001, and the families of the two other men who died in prison had sued the federal government for malicious prosecution.


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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 in the hit.


The four wrongly convicted men 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.


"It took 30 years to uncover this injustice, and the government's position is, in a word, absurd," Gertner told the packed courtroom. "No lost liberty is dispensable. We have fought wars over this principle. We are still fighting these wars."


Salvati and Limone were exonerated after FBI memos dating back to the Deegan case surfaced, indicating that the four men had been framed by Barboza. The memos were made public during a Justice Department task force probe of the Boston FBI's relationship with gangsters and FBI informants James "Whitey" Bulger and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.


Limone, now 73, and Salvati, 75, stared straight ahead as the judge announced her ruling. A gasp could be heard from the area where their friends and family were sitting when Gertner said how much the government would be forced to pay.


Gertner awarded $26 million to Limone, $29 million to Salvati, $13 million to Tameleo's estate and $28 million to Greco's estate.


The wives of Limone and Salvati and the estate of Tameleo's deceased wife each were awarded slightly more than $1 million, and the men's 10 children were each awarded $250,000.


The men's attorneys had not asked for a specific amount in damages, but in court documents they cited other wrongful conviction cases in which $1 million was awarded for every year of imprisonment.


"Do I want the money? Yes, I want my children, my grandchildren to have things I didn't have, but nothing can compensate for what they've done," Salvati said.


Salvati had been sentenced to life in prison as an accessory to murder and served more than 29 years before his sentence was commuted in 1997.


"It's been a long time coming," said Limone, who served 33 years in prison before he was freed in 2001. "What I've been through ? I hope it never happens to anyone else."


Justice Department lawyer Bridget Bailey Lipscomb declined immediate comment on the ruling.



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