updated 5/10/2004 7:04:09 PM ET 2004-05-10T23:04:09

A federal appeals court Monday reinstated a lawsuit against the U.S. government that blames the FBI’s corrupt relationship with two mob informants for a man’s murder.

The lawsuit filed by the family of John McIntyre accuses the FBI of contributing to McIntyre’s death by giving James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi free rein to commit crimes while they were informing on the Mafia.

McIntyre disappeared in 1984 after giving information about the Bulger gang’s crimes to the FBI. His body was found in a shallow grave in Boston in 2000.

The lawsuit was dismissed last year by a judge who said it was filed too late. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying the family could not have known about the FBI’s role until much later.

“It takes a great step in the direction of fairness and accountability,” said McIntyre family attorney Jeffrey Denner.

Another lawsuit, filed by the family of Oklahoma businessman Roger Wheeler, was heard in conjunction with the McIntyre case, but the appeals court upheld its dismissal by a federal judge.

The U.S. Justice Department had argued that the victims’ families should have known by 1998 that FBI agents may have played a role in the killings because of widespread publicity at the time about the FBI’s improper relationship with the gangsters.

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller had no immediate comment on Monday’s ruling.

Flemmi pleaded guilty in January for his role in 10 murders, including the killings of Wheeler and McIntyre. Bulger fled in 1995 and remains a fugitive, wanted in connection with 21 murders.

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