, Newburyport, MA

August 14, 2013

Our view: Crime certainly paid for Whitey Bulger

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Justice finally caught up with James “Whitey” Bulger. But after a lifetime of enriching himself through murder and mayhem, his conviction at age 83 makes it hard to argue that crime doesn’t pay.

And just as disturbing is the fact that Bulger was able to make crime pay so well for himself for so many years because he had the assistance of representatives of federal, state and local government — the FBI agents, state and Boston police whom Bulger paid for information that allowed him to stay one step ahead of the law.

Testimony in other mob-related trials revealed that Bulger also had acted as an informant for the FBI from 1975 to 1990. He was, in the parlance of Whitey’s social circles, a rat.

“Rat-a-tat-tat, Whitey,” a woman in the gallery shouted at Bulger as he was led from the courtroom after his conviction Monday.

It’s difficult to find anyone in Bulger’s story, on one side of the law or the other, who wasn’t a rat of some sort.

Bulger yesterday was convicted yesterday on two counts of racketeering, involvement in 11 of the 19 murders of which he stood accused, money laundering, extortion, drug charges and illegal use of firearms. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 13 and, given Bulger’s age, it is difficult to imagine he will not spend the rest of his life behind bars.

During the trial, Bulger seem more upset at the accusation he was an informant than all the murders in which he took part. It was the petty hood’s bravado pouring forth — anything but a rat!

But Bulger’s lawyers plan an appeal based on the judge’s refusal to allow him to testify that he was granted immunity by a now-dead prosecutor for all his crimes.

“As far as I’m concerned, I didn’t get a fair trial, and this is a sham, and do what youse want with me,” Bulger told the judge. “That’s it. That’s my final word.”

But if that is Bulger’s claim, what could he possibly have offered a prosecutor for his purported immunity but information?

Bulger was once mythologized as a hero in his native South Boston, the poor kid from the projects who grew up and made certain folks had a turkey for Thanksgiving. A regular Robin Hood, he was, and he was said to have kept the really bad crime off the street. This trial revealed that Bulger was committing much of the “really bad crime” himself.

Real estate developer Richard Buccheri told the court of how 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 reported by the Associated Press.

According to testimony, Bulger strangled two women to death — the girlfriend and stepdaughter of associate Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi — because they knew too much about his operations. The jury found that Bulger was involved in the murder of Deborah Hussey — the stepdaughter — but made no finding in the death of Debra Davis, the girlfriend.

After a tip in 1995 from now-jailed FBI agent John Connolly that he was about to be indicted, Bulger went on the run. He eluded capture for 16 years before a tip led agents to an apartment in Santa Monica, Calif. Hidden in the apartment, officials found a stash of guns, $822,000 in cash and a Stanley Cup ring that Bulger said he received as a gift. Bulger agreed to forfeit the guns and cash but may keep the ring.

Perhaps Bulger can admire it as he spends the rest of his days in prison.

Whitey Bulger lived a life of luxury and leisure supported by the death and misery he visited upon others. True justice may have to wait until his days have reached an end.