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Judge: FBI 'Has Gotten Away With Murder' In Bulger Case

BOSTON (CBS) – One of the judges involved in a federal appeals court ruling that denied the families of two of Whitey Bulger's alleged victims of an $8.5 million award against the government says the FBI, "has gotten away with murder."

In a scathing dissent, Judge Juan Tourella wrote that the moral of the ruling seems to be, "that crime does pay, at least for the government."

On Thursday, the US First Circuit Court of Appeals voted 3-3, supporting the earlier decision that the statute of limitations had expired. A majority is needed to grant a hearing for an appeal.

WBZ-TV's Karen Anderson reports

The money was supposed to go to the families of Michael Donahue and Brian Halloran.

Both men were killed back in 1982.

Read the full court opinion (.pdf)

Halloran was the target. Donahue was only there because he offered Halloran a ride home.

After the federal government was found liable in the deaths of the two men, their families were awarded the $8.5 million in 2009. But that was rescinded earlier this year.

Under federal law, the statute of limitations under the Federal Tort Claims Act is two years from the date of accrual.

Judge Tourrella pointed out the government was covering up their dealings with Bulger as late as 2005.

"The government's claim that the Donahue and Halloran estates filed their claims too late rests on an astonishingly one-sided understanding of what reasonableness requires," Tourrella wrote. "The government had repeatedly assured them over the years that someone else was responsible. Is it so unreasonable for citizens to rely on what their government was repeatedly asserting as the truth? Can the government be allowed to benefit from its own perfidious conduct in duping its own citizens with stonewalling and outright lies?"

Pat Donahue, Michael's widow called the ruling an injustice. "If there are other avenues I'm interested in going with that. I don't want the government to get away with murder," she told WBZ-TV's Karen Anderson. "I feel like if the judges against us really did their homework, there should be no question about giving us a hearing. This is just a hearing. To think our case isn't important enough, what kind of case would be?"

Donahue's attorney, Ed Hinchey called the Donohue's story an American tragedy. "The poor fellow gets killed by this own government, and then his own government tells him we know we did it but we're not going to compensate you for it," he said.

Jeffrey Denner, who represents the McIntryre family also called the ruling outrageous. "The government admitted it was complicit in the murder of these poor people, and the government now says we did it, but we're not going to pay for it because you should have known about it earlier," said Denner.

WBZ-TV's Jonathan Elias got reaction from Congressman Stephen Lynch

Congressman Stephen Lynch also expressed his opposition to the ruling and even suggested passing a law to change things.

"These families deserve justice and the Appeals Court decision is very disappointing," he said in a statement.  "I would be supportive of legislation if the families choose to pursue such a remedy. I am not certain that the House rules would permit a personal relief bill to proceed under these circumstances but this case is compelling and I am willing to make the effort."

The U.S. Attorney's Office had no comment on the decision.

WBZ-TV's Karen Anderson contributed to this report.

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