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Ex-FBI agent pleads not guilty to lying; Fitzgerald accused of false statements, exaggeration during 'Whitey' Bulger trial.

Byline: Denise Lavoie

BOSTON -- A former FBI agent lied to jurors during mobster James ''Whitey'' Bulger's trial and overstated his professional accomplishments, including falsely claiming to be the first officer who recovered the rifle used to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr., federal officials said Thursday in announcing a perjury case against him.

Robert Fitzpatrick, who was once second in command of the Boston FBI division, surrendered to U.S. marshals with his lawyer after learning there was a warrant for his arrest.

Fitzpatrick, the first witness called by Bulger's attorneys during his 2013 racketeering trial, said he tried to persuade the FBI to terminate Bulger as an informant because the mobster didn't appear to be helping its mission to gather information on the Mafia. Fitzpatrick said his bosses did not act on his recommendation to close Bulger as an informant.

Prosecutors suggested during the trial that he exaggerated that claim to sell copies of a book he wrote about Bulger.

Fitzpatrick pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday afternoon to six counts of perjury and six counts of obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors did not seek to hold him in custody while he awaits trial, agreeing with his lawyer that he could be released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.

The 85-year-old Bulger is serving two life sentences after his 2013 racketeering conviction tying him to 11 murders and other gangland crimes in the 1970s and '80s.

During Bulger's trial, prosecutor Brian Kelly started his cross-examination of Fitzpatrick by asking him if he was a man who likes to make up stories. Fitzpatrick denied that.

Kelly went on to press Fitzpatrick about a claim he had made previously that he was the first officer at the scene who recovered the weapon used to kill King.

''Isn't it true that three Memphis police officers found the rifle that was used to kill Martin Luther King, not Bob Fitzpatrick?'' Kelly asked.

''I found the rifle along with them. They could have been there ... but I'm the one that took the rifle,'' Fitzpatrick said.

Kelly then told Fitzpatrick that a report says someone else took the rifle from police officers and turned the bundle over to the FBI three hours later. ''I took the bundle from the scene,'' Fitzpatrick explained. Fitzpatrick also told jurors that in 1981, about six years after Bulger began working an informant, he was given the task of assessing whether the mobster was giving the FBI useful information. The ex-agent insisted that he repeatedly sought to end the FBI's relationship with Bulger, particularly after Bulger became a suspect in two 1982 killings.

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Author:Lavoie, Denise
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 1, 2015
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