I told this story once before, years ago, but it is surprising how often this case comes up, and it’s come up again in the context of the right-wing smears against Robert Mueller by guys like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and even Alan Dershowitz. It’s the case that actually inspired that yarn wall in the header image — promoted by Donald Trump on Twitter — and it’s a case in which I have a tenuous personal connection. The case is discussed by Hannity here at the 7:37 mark.
It concerns four men who were wrongfully convicted of a gangland murder in Chelsea, Massachusetts back in 1965. As Hannity notes, two of the men died in prison, while the other two men spent over three decades in prison. The name of one of those men is Joseph Salvati, a client of my old boss, a lawyer named Victor Garo.
Back in 2000, while I was still in law school, Garo hired me to help work on Salvati’s case. He didn’t offer me much money — $100 a week — but he suggested to me that if I did the work, I had a potentially bright future with him. This was super exciting for me because I had fumbled a lot of summer associate interviews (a dark sense of humor didn’t play well with BigLaw) and I thought maybe I could hitch my wagon to Garo.
And then he told me about the case. His client, he claimed, had been framed for the murder by two hitmen for the Boston mob, Vincent “Jimmy the Bear” Flemmi and Joe “The Animal” Barboza (associates of Whitey Bulger, who was actually not involved in this case at all, despite Hannity’s claims to the contrary). I sort of nodded my head at Garo when he told me this and thought, “Uh huh, sure.” Then he told me the preposterous twist: That Barboza, Flemmi, and Bulger were actually informants for the FBI, and that the FBI was covering up Barboza and Flemmi’s role in the murder and letting our client, Salvatti, take the fall and rot in prison in order to protect their mobster informants.
My boss also told me that there are three people you should never trust: “Reporters, the police, and hookers.”
I lasted in that job for about two months. I quit because I thought my boss was a nutcase conspiracy theorist and I didn’t want to get dragged down with him and spend the next five to ten years of my life in a fruitless effort to sue the FBI.
In 2007, my old boss won $101 million for Joe Salvatti.
(A few years after that, I also traded my 25 percent stake in a struggling start-up for full ownership of Pajiba, and my former business partner eventually rebuilt that struggling start-up and sold it for $82 million, which is to say: The universe really, really wants to keep me away from money.)
ANYHOW, I bring all of this up, because the judge who ruled in favor of Joe Salvatti, Nancy Gertner, wrote an article in the NYTimes today to set the record straight on the role that Mueller played in that case, which — contrary to what Hannity would have us believe — is nada.
There is no evidence that the assertion is true. I was the federal judge who presided over a successful lawsuit brought against the government by two of those men and the families of the other two, who had died in prison. Based on the voluminous evidence submitted in the trial, and having written a 105-page decision awarding them $101.8 million, I can say without equivocation that Mr. Mueller, who worked in the United States attorney’s office in Boston from 1982 to 1988, including a brief stint as the acting head of the office, had no involvement in that case. He was never even mentioned.
In other words, back the hell off, Hannity, Limbaugh, Dershowitz, et. al, because you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. This whole “Mueller Crime Family” schtick that Hannity is pushing has zero basis in reality and, according to Gertner, they “should stop the campaign to discredit Mr. Mueller.”