Updated:MIAMI (MyFoxBoston.com/AP) -- A Florida appeals court has overturned the murder conviction for a former FBI agent linked to mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.
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The 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday that former agent John Connolly was improperly convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for his role in the 1982 slaying of John Callahan.
Callahan sold sports betting company World Jai Alai to Oklahoma businessman Roger Wheeler after the Winchester resident became the subject of an investigation into his alleged connection to members of the mob underworld. Bulger associate John Martorano confessed to murdering Callahan amid concerns that he could implicate the gang in Wheeler's murder.
Investigators believe Wheeler learned that the Winter Hill Gang was skimming profits from World Jai Alai and he planned to blow the whistle on the group. They claim Connolly tipped off Bulger and other members of the Boston underworld that Callahan would implicate them in Wheeler's death.
In the court's new ruling, a panel of judges determined in a 2-1 vote that Connolly's second-degree murder conviction was barred by the statute of limitations. His attorneys argued that prosecutors improperly used a firearms allegation to enhance the charge.
Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said she promised an appeal to the full appeals court of 10 judges.
"In sporting terms, this is as though Connolly threw a Hail Mary pass and completed it, but the play is under review," said former federal prosecutor Brian Kelly, one of the lawyers who worked to convict Whitey Bulger last summer.
He believes there's a good chance Connolly will not win his appeal in front of the full board.
Florida prosecutors have 15 days to file an appeal.
Connolly has long denied a role in Callahan's slaying.
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