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Mobster Frame Job Claims May Hit the Mark

(CN) - The government may have to shed some light on claims that James "Whitey" Bulger, in cooperation with rogue FBI agents, framed a man for murder, a federal judge ruled.

In federal prison for racketeering, conspiracy to murder and drug possession, Vincent Marino filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act to various government agencies, including the FBI, Office of the Attorney General, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts, seeking records he says will exonerate him.

Marino claims he was set up by Bulger, Angelo "Sonny" Mercurio and Stephen Flemmi, who were aided and abetted by federal agents and prosecutors.

Bulger, 83, was convicted in August on 11 counts of murder, as well as racketeering charges, for his activities as a former leader of the Winter Hill Gang in Boston.

While living an active life of crime, he also served as an FBI informant, giving the agency information about rival gangs, including the mafia. In return, the FBI protected Bulger from prosecution and, in some cases, even aided his criminal activities.

Several families of Bulger's victims have since held the FBI liable, and former FBI agent John Connolly Jr. was even sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the gang's activities.

Marino believes that records from meetings allegedly held by assistant U.S. attorneys to achieve a "potential out of court settlement" will show that prosecutors cooperated with Bulger to frame him.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer declined to dismiss Marino's pro se lawsuit Wednesday, finding that the defendant agencies did not conduct adequate searches for the records he seeks.

"As far as the record shows, OIP [Office of Information and Policy], OAG [Office of Attorney General], and OEO [Office of Enforcement Operations] failed to conduct any search in response to Mr. Marino's requests," the 18-page opinion states.

These agencies denied receiving any FOIA request from Marino, but their own exhibits include numerous requests from Mario, contradicting this assertion.

The Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, also known as CRIM, and FBI acknowledged receiving Marino's request, but interpreted the request differently.

"Mr. Marino requested documents generally pertaining to him and sealed documents from Salemme," Collyer wrote, referring to the 1999 decision involving mobster-turned-government-witness Francis "Cadillac Frank" Salemme.

"CRIM construed the request as limited to records generally concerning Mr. Marino and conducted a search accordingly," Collyer continued. "FBI read the request as seeking only sealed documents from Salemme, informed Mr. Marino that it does not maintain sealed court documents, and never conducted any search. Neither agency has explained why it was appropriate to ignore half of Mr. Marino's FOIA request."

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