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US Pays Hit Man $20K, But Fights Compensation for Victims

Posted Jan 16, 2008 7:05 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Advocates for victims targeted during the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s by organized crime figures in Northeast who were aided by ties to the local FBI are expressing outrage about a $20,000 payment reportedly made by the government to a newly released convicted hit man. And those representing fellow criminals facing harsher punishments aren't happy about the payment either.

When hit-man-turned-government-witness John Martorano was released from prison last year after serving 12 years for 20 murders, the U.S. gave him $20,000 to start a new life, reports the Boston Globe (reg. req.). Ordinarily, criminals are given money only if they have been wrongly convicted.

Meanwhile, the federal government is reportedly fighting efforts by surviving victims and their relatives to obtain compensation for crimes and wrongful convictions for which the government is blamed because of preferential treatment given to criminals who served as informants for local FBI agents. (As discussed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, federal courts in Massachusetts last year awarded attorney fees and a record-breaking $100 million judgment in cases in which the FBI seemingly sided with with organized criminals who served as informants.)

Martarano, 67, who was featured on the CBS television program 60 Minutes earlier this month, deserves special consideration for the role he played in helping convict cohorts who otherwise would never have been brought to justice, according to his lawyer.

Others complain that the $20,000 payment is clearly wrong.

Manuel Casabielle is a Miami criminal defense lawyer who represents a former FBI agent, John Connolly Jr., who has been convicted of racketeering and faces further prosecution. "I think it's outrageous that the government is not only allowing Mr. Martorano to receive such a short sentence, but they are also paying him," Casabielle tells the Globe. "And it appears they are paying him for his testimony, past, present and future."

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