- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

AUSTIN, Texas As John Johnson, he operated half a dozen hot dog carts and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Austin three times in the 1990s.
As John Tully, he was part of New Jersey's Campisi crime family until the mid-1970s. Then he agreed to testify against his former mob associates and joined the federal witness-protection program.
Now he says the feds have given him a raw deal.
Now 64, living on a small Caribbean island and suffering from heart disease, he claims the government has reneged on its promises. He has no health insurance and has been trying to obtain Social Security for more than a year without success.
"I guess they think I will die before they have to deal with my case," he said last week. "It could happen, but I am going to fight to the end."
The Justice Department's Witness Security Program known as WITSEC was a major ingredient in the government's successful purge of the nation's leading organized crime families, offering protection for those who provided information that helped jail mob leaders.
WITSEC gave witnesses new identities, moved them to new locales and provided stipends until they could re-establish their lives.
Because of potential danger to participants, the inner workings of the WITSEC program have remained highly secretive and that seems to be part of Mr. Tully's problem.
The Justice Department not only refuses to acknowledge Mr. Tully's claims, it refuses to discuss the matter at all. "I haven't been able to find anyone who knows anything about this case," said one Justice spokesman.
There is no doubt that Mr. Tully was a protected witness. He has hundreds of documents outlining his years in the program. Mr. Tully has bombarded Washington with pleas for help.
A Texas lawyer familiar with Mr. Tully's case said: "They messed this guy around almost from the word go. Now they think it will go away. To them he's just another hood, another snitch. And they can hide behind the program's secrecy to get by with it until he dies."
Mr. Tully played a key role in the breakup of the Campisi crime family. Mr. Tully had been a "wheel man," the driver, in a series of mob hits for the Campisis. His record also included charges of assault and battery, insurance fraud, armed robbery, drug dealing and murder.
"I only killed one person," he said in an interview, "and that was a guy who raped my best friend's wife. On the others I was the wheel man. But I knew how the whole thing worked. When the Campisis found out I was going to testify, they knew what that meant."
Six members of the Newark family ended up in prison, but Mr. Tully never had to testify because within days of the government announcing Mr. Tully would be a prime witness, the entire family plea-bargained.
Mr. Tully under the alias John Parker spent six years in prison. He had been assured he would serve less time than any of the Campisis, but by the time he was released in 1980, every one of the Newark mobsters had already been released, some of them with less than three years served.
So Mr. Tully and his wife, Hilda, were inducted into WITSEC, given new identities, insurance, new driver's licenses and Social Security numbers and a small amount of cash. They were sent to Austin.
With a $10,000 loan from a family member, "John Johnson" started his own business in the Texas capital, selling hot dogs in the city's Sixth Street tourist district.
But after a drunken-driving arrest, he was fingerprinted and though WITSEC officials had assured him his prior record would be expunged as part of the program his true identity and background data were sent back to Austin police.
He began to be harassed, first by beat cops, later by Sixth Street restaurant owners who resented competition from the sidewalk hot-dog vendor.
That's when Mr. Tully decided to run for mayor. He went public, passed out copies of his "rap sheet" and swore he was a changed man. "I figured as long as I was in the limelight, I was safe," he said.
But then one day, a convict he had served time with in two different prisons ambled by his stand and recognized him. The man returned several times, often just eyeing him from nearby.
Mr. Tully asked WITSEC to move him elsewhere and the agency relocated him to Florida.
He bought a restaurant near Miami that quickly failed. His health further deteriorated. A second heart attack and other problems made it impossible for him to find work, he said.
So he and his wife of 38 years moved to a Caribbean island where, with the help of family and friends, they are eking out a living.
Mr. Tully says he wants no money from the government, just the medical care he was promised and help in qualifying for Social Security.
Mr. Tully doesn't worry about the mob anymore.
"Oh no, that's an old moth-eaten grudge," he laughed. "I just worry about where the money to pay next month's rent will come from."

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