(BOSTON) — Hitman John Martorano admitted on the stand Wednesday that he lied to his best friend before he shot him in the back of the head.
“I couldn’t tell him I was going to shoot him,” Martorano told the court of the murder of John Callahan, a close friend for decades who was murdered, the hitman testified, because Bulger “insisted on it.”
It was one of several lies that lawyers from accused Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger elicited from Martorano, a key prosecution witness in Bulger’s trial for 19 murders and other crimes.
Under cross examination by defense lawyer Hank Brennan, Martorano conceded he had previously lied about his partnership with Bulger.
And he lied to Massachusetts State Trooper Tom Foley about details regarding the murder of Edward Connors, who was gunned down in a phone booth in 1975, Brennan pointed out.
“I recanted that,” Martorano retorted. Brennan asked Martorano what the government told him about his plea deal.
“I was told that if I ever told a lie I would go to jail for the rest of my life,” Martorano told the court.
Bulger’s defense attorneys spent the start of Martorano’s third and final day on the stand in trying to portray the confessed hitman as a liar who would say anything about his former friend Bulger to save himself from life in prison or the death penalty.
Still, Martorano would testify about his feelings on informants.
“An informant is a Judas, a rat, a no-good guy,” Martorano told the court. “I was always brought up that’s the worst person in the world. As far as being a rat, that’s the opposite of how I want to live.”
Martorano has explained that he never testified against anyone who didn’t hurt him and chose to help the government put Bulger and Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi behind bars because they “broke my heart” by moonlighting as paid FBI informants while allegedly running the Boston rackets.
He was once so close to Bulger and Flemmi he named his youngest son, James Stephen, after the gangsters. He did not learn that Bulger and Flemmi were working for the FBI until 1995.
Before that, Bulger cradled James Stephen Martorano and was christened as the baby’s godfather, a photograph of which was entered into evidence by the U.S. Attorney this week.
Brennan appealed to Martorano’s ego in his questioning, asking him if he “answered to Bulger” and whether the Winter Hill gang leader “was his boss.”
“Were you partners?” Brennan asked.
“I thought so,” Martorano answered. He stammered a bit and then added: “He knew what buttons to push.”
It was clear that Brennan’s line of questioning also pushed Martorano’s buttons.
For three straight days the man who has confessed to 20 murders told the court he “tried to be” a nice guy and that he preferred to think of himself as a vigilante rather than a serial killer, has been calm and collected.
Martorano appeared somewhat rattled as Brennan questioned his recollection of details about Bulger’s alleged involvement in some of Martorano’s activities. Brennan also hammered Martorano on his cooperation agreement with federal officials and the benefits he received from the government after he admitted to murdering 20 people.
“Any time you wanted money you could call,” Brennan asked of Martorano’s relationship with federal agents while he was incarcerated, “and they would put $400 in your canteen account.”
Martorano admitted to collecting roughly $8,000 while he was incarcerated in a federal pen. Then he got another $20,000 from the federal government when he was released from prison in 2007.
“I asked for startup money. When I got out I had nothing,” Martorano admitted. Brennan pointed out that Martorano was able to keep a house he owned in Florida and waive the restitution he was ordered to pay as part of his plea agreement. He also asked Martorano about his $250,000 movie deal and the more than $70,000 he received for collaborating with Boston newspaperman Howie Carr for the book Hitman, for which he still receives royalties.
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone with it,” Martorano said. “I was trying to make a living. I didn’t try to hurt anyone with the book.”
Brennan tried to implicate Martorano in continuing criminal activity upon his release from prison in 2007. He asked Martorano whether he tried to shake down a man who the hitman claimed owed him $100,000. Martorano explained that he wanted to ask that man if there was any money he owed to Mafia figures in New York City.
“I didn’t want anyone chasing me for money that I might have owed,” Martorano testified. “I didn’t chase him. I just went to see him in the North End.”
Martorano said he continues to gamble with another man and “takes a piece of it” of the winnings “because he’s a better gambler than me.”
With that, the defense attorneys ended their cross-examination of the government’s star witness. The dapperly-dressed Martorano regained his composure during assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak redirect questioning, which focused on the murders Bulger is accused of involvement in.
“Were you and Mr. Bulger involved in the murder of Michael Milano?” Wyshak asked.
“Correct,” Martorano stated. “Were you and Mr. Bulger involved in the murder of Al Plumber?”
“Correct,” Martorano answered. “Were you and Mr. Bulger involved in the murder of William O’Brien?”
The question was asked 13 times more with names of Al Norangelli, Eddie Connors, Thomas King, James O’Toole, James Souza, Richard Castucci, Roger Wheeler, John Callahan, Brian Halloran and Buddy Leonard.
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