Who is Fred Weichel? 'Innocent' man framed by Whitey Bulger, to receive $33M for spending 36 years in jail
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: The man who served 36 years in prison for murder has been awarded $33 million by a jury on Tuesday, October 18. The now-free man claims that he was falsely accused of the crime by notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Fred Weichel was arrested in 1980 for the murder of Robert Lamonica in Braintree before being released in 2017. According to his lawyer, Weichel won a civil suit against the state, with jurors ruling that he should receive $33 million from the state of Massachusetts.
Weichel was freed in 2017 after it was revealed that a police report indicating that another person may have committed the crime had not been handed over to the police. Since his imprisonment, Weichel has continued to insist on his innocence and claimed that Bulger double-crossed him and made him the scapegoat in a 2002 jailhouse interview with Boston 25's Bob Ward. According to Massachusetts state law, the maximum monetary award is $1 million; however, Weichel will probably receive more for fees and legal expenses.
Fred Weichel nearly spent four decades in prison for the 1980 murder of Robert Lamonica in Braintree. When Weichel was detained, he was 28 years old. He is 70 now. Mark Loevy-Reyes, a legal representative for Weichel. As per the report by WCVB published early this month, Mark Loevy-Reyes Weichel's legal representative said, "Fred was innocent when he went to prison. And for 35 years, 8-plus months, he had to live in a small cell. Every day knowing that he was an innocent man."
But state-representing attorneys for the Attorney General's office cautioned against jumping to conclusions, claiming that even if Weichel wasn't the murderer of Lamonica, he may have assisted the real assailant after the crime had been committed. Assistant attorney general Abigail Fee stated, "The fact that a judge ordered a new criminal trial for Mr. Weichel, doesn't mean he's innocent. The fact that the district attorney made the decision not to re-prosecute him 40 years later, doesn't mean he's innocent."
Tommy Barrett, Weichel's friend, later admitted to the killing in a 1982 letter to Weichel's mother, but he was never put on trial for the murder. Fee stated, "You will also decide whether in your minds he has proved himself innocent of these other felony crimes based on the evidence you hear. In particular, about how Mr. Weichel helped Tommy Barrett leave the state when police were looking for him."
Weichel admits that he put Barrett in touch with a friend in California because he believed his friend was having problems. However, according to Weichel, the trouble was unrelated to the Lamonica murder.
During his civil trial early this month, on the witness stand, Weichel claimed that South Boston mob leader James "Whitey" Bulger had ordered him to keep Barrett's name out of the Lamonica investigation. Weichel testified that Whitey told him, "If you ever mention Tommy Barrett's name I'll kill you. And if I can't get you, I'll get your mother, brother and sister."
WCVB reported that the Attorney General's Office will settle claims in circumstances where eligibility requirements have been satisfied and the plaintiff's innocence is undeniable. The AG's Office has reached settlements in 13 cases since 2018 totaling more than $8.4 million in compensation. Plaintiffs have also gotten relief in the form of housing assistance, MassHealth coverage, and free tuition at an in-state college or university.
A spokesperson for attorney Maura Healey said, "[Tuesday's] verdict is a result of our state statute that appropriately allows for eligible plaintiffs to bring their case before a jury for a final determination. We will continue to handle these cases in a way that is fair and consistent with the law."