BOSTON (AP) — A woman who survived a gangland hit that left her boyfriend paralyzed and his friend dead choked back tears yesterday at James “Whitey” Bulger’s trial as she recalled ducking down in the front seat of a new Mercedes Benz when she heard a hail of gunfire.
Diane Sussman de Tennen, who was shot in the arm, was the first of a series of witnesses who described being wounded or losing a loved one in shootings allegedly orchestrated by Bulger and his gang. Family members of several victims gave emotional testimony describing how they learned their relatives had been killed.
Bulger, now 83, is charged with playing a role in 19 killings during the ’70s and ’80s while allegedly the boss of the mostly Irish-American Winter Hill Gang. He has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers say he made millions through drugs, illegal gambling and loan-sharking, but they have said his former associates have fabricated or exaggerated his role to get reduced sentences for their own crimes.
Bulger became one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994. Prosecutors say Bulger had secretly worked as a high-level FBI informant and provided information on members of the rival Italian-American Mafia, once the top federal crime-fighting priority.
Sussman de Tennen said she was in a car driven by Michael Milano — a 30-year-old bartender — on March 8, 1973, when a car pulled up to them at a stop light in Boston’s North End neighborhood.
“All of a sudden, there was this noise, a continuous stream of gunfire. ... It was just nonstop,” she said.
After the noise ended, she got up and saw Milano, who was leaning forward into the steering wheel.
“I looked at him and I asked him if he was OK, and I got no response,” she said.