EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

August 15, 2013

Bulger's once-powerful brother absent from trial

BOSTON (AP) — Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger had family supporters at his racketeering trial, but one person has been missing: his brother William, once one of Massachusetts’ most powerful politicians.

While Whitey Bulger rose to power in Boston’s criminal underworld in the 1970s and ‘80s and became a feared mob boss, William Bulger ruled the state Senate for nearly two decades with a razor-sharp wit and legislative arm-twisting. He also later headed the five-campus University of Massachusetts system.

For the past few years, though, his legacy has been eclipsed by the capture and prosecution of his older brother, once one of the FBI’s most wanted.

Two years after he was captured on the run in California, Whitey Bulger was convicted Monday in federal court on 11 killings he took part in and other gangland crimes that he committed while he led the Winter Hill Gang, Boston’s ruthless Irish mob.

Throughout the older Bulger’s summer-long trial, with its testimony by aging gangsters who gave lurid details of murders, William Bulger made no public statements and didn’t talk to the press. He doesn’t even have a listed phone number at his South Boston address.

Another Bulger brother, Jackie, himself a retired court clerk magistrate, has attended the trial, as have several of William Bulger’s children.

To those who know him, William Bulger’s decision to avoid the trial isn’t a surprise.

Joseph Oteri, who grew up with Bulger, said part of Bulger’s low profile may be health related; he had heart surgery a few years back. But Oteri said it might also be a desire to maintain some semblance of privacy surrounding his relationship with his brother.

“I’m from South Boston and we have certain codes there, and one of them is you don’t pry into people’s lives.” Oteri said. “If they wanted you to know something, they’d let you know.”

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