EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 13, 2013

Mob boss 'Whitey' Bulger guilty in 11 killings

By Denise Lavoie and Jay Lindsay
Associated Press

---- — 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.

“He’s guilty of murdering my husband. There’s nobody that said that,” his widow said.

Thomas Donahue, who was 8 when his father was killed, said: “Thirty-one years of deceit, of cover-up of my father’s murder. Finally we have somebody guilty of it. Thirty-one years — that’s a long time.” He said that when he heard the verdict, “I wanted to jump up. I was like, ‘Damn right.’”

“Today is a day that many in this city thought would never come,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. “This day of reckoning has been a long time in coming.” She added: “We hope that we stand here today to mark the end of an era that was very ugly in Boston’s history.”

She said Bulger’s corrupting of law enforcement officials “allowed him to operate a violent organization in this town, and it also allowed him to slip away when honest law enforcement was closing in.”

Bulger attorney J.W. Carney Jr. said Bulger intends to appeal because the judge didn’t let him argue that he had been granted immunity for his crimes by a now-dead federal prosecutor.

But Carney said Bulger was pleased with the trial and its outcome, because “it was important to him that the government corruption be exposed, and important to him to see the deals the government was able to make with certain people.”

“Mr. Bulger knew as soon as he was arrested that he was going to die behind the walls of a prison or on a gurney and injected with chemicals that would kill him,” Carney said. “This trial has never been about Jim Bulger being set free.”

Prosecutors at the two-month trial portrayed Bulger as a cold-blooded, hands-on boss who killed anyone he saw as a threat, along with innocent people who happened to get in the way. Then, according to testimony, he would go off and take a nap while his underlings cleaned up.

Among other things, Bulger was accused of strangling two women with his bare hands, shooting two men in the head after chaining them to chairs and interrogating them for hours, and opening fire on two men as they left a South Boston restaurant.

Bulger skipped town in 1994 after being tipped off — by a retired FBI agent, John Connolly, it turned out — that he was about to be indicted.

He spent 16 years on the run and was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list before he was finally captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had been living in a rent-controlled apartment near the beach with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig. She was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping Bulger.

His disappearance proved a major embarrassment to the FBI when it came out at court hearings and trials that Bulger had been an informant from 1975 to 1990, feeding the bureau information on the rival New England Mafia and members of his own gang while he continued to kill and intimidate.

Bulger’s lawyers spent a surprising amount of time disputing he was a “rat” — a label that seemed to set off the hotheaded Bulger more than anything else, causing him to erupt in obscenities in the courtroom.

The prosecution’s witnesses also included drug dealers, bookmakers and legitimate businessmen who described terrifying encounters with Bulger in which he ordered them to pay up or take a beating or worse.

Real estate developer Richard Buccheri said Bulger threatened to kill him and his family if he did not pay $200,000. Buccheri related how Bulger slammed his hand on a table in anger.

“With that, he takes the shotgun that was on the table — he sticks it in my mouth,” Buccheri said as spectators in the courtroom gasped.