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John Connolly, Whitey Bulger's FBI Handler, Approved For Medical Release From Florida Prison

BOSTON (CBS/AP) -- John Connolly, the former FBI agent who worked with Whitey Bulger, was approved for medical release from prison in Florida on Wednesday. Connolly had been serving a 40-year sentence for alerting Bulger that his gang could be implicated in a mob-related killing.

The Florida Commission On Offender Review voted 2-1 to approve Connolly's medical release Wednesday morning following a short hearing. Connolly is 80 years old and has cancer is believed to have less than a year to live.

Under the terms of his medical release, Connolly will be confined to a residence or hospice facility. He cannot keep firearms at the residence and must not have alcohol or drugs. He also cannot have contact with the victim's family in the Florida case.

Connolly was Bulger's FBI handler in Boston and was convicted in 2002 in federal court of racketeering for protecting members of his Winter Hill Gang from prosecution and tipping them about informants in their ranks. He completed a 10-year sentence in that case.

Connolly was then convicted in the 1982 slaying of a Florida gambling executive in a case connected to Bulger. In 2015, an appeals court upheld the second-degree murder with a firearm conviction, even though he was 1,500 miles away when a hit man fatally shot World Jai-Alai President John Callahan in Fort Lauderdale in 1982.

In a statement read to the commission, Callahan's son said he is not opposed to Connolly's release, given his prognosis.

"Let his family have this year with him before he dies," Patrick Callahan said.

The state attorney's office also did not oppose his release.

"It is not unusual for an inmate who is terminally ill and deemed no longer a threat to society to be released to home confinement," U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said in a statement. "While the damage caused by John Connolly's corrupt relationship with James Bulger and others can never be forgiven, and Connolly has been shown compassion and consideration that his victims were not, we agree with the sentiments of Mary and Patrick Callahan that Connolly should be permitted to die at home with his friends and family."

James Connolly said his brother has has lots of family and friends who can support him in the Boston area.

"He's no threat to anybody," he said.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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