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Boston and Beyond

July 3, 2013

Witness: Bulger threatened life over drug business

BOSTON (AP) — He returned to his South Boston neighborhood after seven years in prison for armed robbery to a warm greeting from James “Whitey” Bulger.

“Welcome home,” the reputed gangster told William Shea when they met on a street corner. Then he passed him $500 cash.

During the next decade, Shea worked with Bulger to build a booming cocaine-dealing business, Shea testified Tuesday at Bulger’s trial.

But, he said, Bulger created a charade to make it look like he wasn’t involved in the operation in order to protect his local reputation. Shea also said his friendly relationship with Bulger took an icy turn after Shea said he wanted out.

“You remember what happened to Bucky Barrett?” Shea said Bulger told him, referring to a safecracker whom prosecutors say Bulger killed.

Bulger has pleaded not guilty to charges against him, which include participating in 19 slayings in the 1970s and ’80s while he was allegedly running the notorious Winter Hill Gang. The 83-year-old fled Boston in 1994 and wasn’t captured until 2011.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, the last day of testimony until Monday, prosecutors also played recorded jailhouse conversations.

During one of the three recordings, Bulger mimics the “rat-tat-tat” sound of a machine gun when speaking about a local bar owner, Edward Connors. Prosecutors say Bulger and his partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, gunned down Connors in a phone booth because they were afraid he’d tie them to the killing of a Bulger rival.

“The guy in the phone booth. Rat-tat-tat!” Bulger says during the 2012 conversation with a relative. He also remarks that someone threw his name “into the mix” about that murder, before making the “rat-tat-tat” sound again.

Earlier Tuesday, Connors’ daughter, Karen Smith, who was 7 when her father was killed, gave emotional testimony during which she recalled learning her father was dead by seeing the picture of his sprawled body on TV.

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