BOSTON — James “Whitey” Bulger, the model for Jack Nicholson’s sinister crime boss in the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie “The Departed,” was seen for years as a Robin Hood figure who bought Thanksgiving turkeys for fellow residents of working-class South Boston and kept hard drugs out of the neighborhood.
But that image was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies, and with his conviction yesterday in federal court in a string of 11 killings and dozens of other gangland crimes, many of them committed while he was said to be an FBI informant.
Bulger, 83, could get life in prison at sentencing Nov. 13. But given his age, even a modest term could amount to a life sentence for the slightly stooped former mob boss.
Bulger was charged primarily with racketeering, which listed 33 criminal acts — among them, 19 murders that he allegedly helped orchestrate or carried out himself during the 1970s and ‘80s while he led the Winter Hill Gang, Boston’s ruthless Irish mob.
After 4½ days of deliberations, the federal jury decided he took part in 11 of those murders, along with nearly all the other crimes on the list, including acts of extortion, money-laundering and drug dealing. He was also found guilty of 30 other offenses, including possession of machine guns.
As court broke up, Bulger turned to his relatives and gave them a thumbs-up. A woman in the gallery taunted him as he was led away, apparently imitating machine-gun fire as she yelled: “Rat-a-tat-tat, Whitey!”
Outside the courtroom, relatives of the victims hugged each other, the prosecutors and even defense attorneys.
Patricia Donahue wept, saying it was a relief to see Bulger convicted in the murder of her husband, Michael Donahue, who authorities say was an innocent victim who died in a hail of gunfire while giving a ride to an FBI informant marked for death by Bulger.