A Boston federal jury found accused mobster James “Whitey” Bulger guilty on Monday of 11 murders and a wide range of racketeering and conspiracy offenses following a trial that highlighted pervasive corruption in the Boston FBI office during the 1970s and 1980s.
Bulger, 83, a storied South Boston underworld kingpin during the those years, had been indicted on 32 counts including a total of 19 murders plus conspiracy, extortion, narcotics, money laundering and firearms offenses.
On their fifth day of deliberations, the jurors found Bulger guilty of virtually all of the charges against him, including extortion, narcotics trafficking, firearms offense plus racketeering. Those convictions could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper set sentencing for November 13.
During a press conference following the verdict, Bulger defender J.W. Carney Jr. of Boston’s Carney & Bassil stressed the corruption within the local FBI office, casting Bulger essentially as a truth-teller. Of his client, he said, it was “important to him that government corruption be exposed.”
Another defense attorney, Hank Brennan, of counsel to Carney & Bassil, said the “trial doesn’t begin to tell the whole story” of the corruption that allowed Bulger to run his criminal enterprise. “I don't think you’ve heard the last word from James Bulger,” he said.
Carney also said that Bulger would file an appeal based on Casper’s ruling that he couldn’t argue that now-deceased federal prosecutor Jeremiah O’Sullivan granted him immunity from prosecution for his criminal activities. “We would have had some very interesting witnesses” otherwise, Carney said.
Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz acknowledged that government corruption allowed Bulger to run his rackets and “slip away” to survive for years as a fugitive. Ortiz also fielded questions about the government’s deals with Bulger’s criminal cronies, a number of whom testified against him. She said “Bulger was hanging around with people just like him” and they had information about his crimes. “It’s a tough business,” she said.
Jurors halted deliberations several times to ask legal questions. On their first day, they asked whether any statutes of limitations applied and were told they did not.
During the second day, Casper gathered the attorneys on multiple occasions for sidebar discussions. The reasons for these huddles have not been disclosed publicly.
Jurors also sought and were granted permission to view a machine gun with serial numbers blocked out that had been entered into evidence.
Concerning the racketeering charges, they asked whether they needed to reach unanimity regarding the predicate acts and whether they could find Bulger guilty if the indictment also charged another person they believed was guilty.
Bulger was captured in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., after about 16 years on the run. His longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig was sentenced to eight years for harboring a fugitive. He waived his right to a jury trial on whether he must forfeit about $822,000 seized in his California apartment.
During 35 days of testimony from 72 witnesses, three former Bulger cronies testified about his crimes in exchange for reduced sentences or exemption from a death penalty sentence.
Bulger seemed mostly preoccupied with demonstrating that he wasn’t a “rat.” The government had argued that he traded information with the FBI in return for protection. Bulger insisted that he paid them off.
His team had insisted throughout that Bulger would take the stand in his own defense, but in the end he told Boston federal judge Denise Casper that he wouldn't testify because the trial was a “sham.”
Bulger’s defense emphasized his payoffs to FBI agents and supervisors and widespread corruption in the Boston office at the time.
For example, Bulger supplied $230,000 plus vacations for former agent John Connolly Jr., who now is serving a life sentence for murder following most of a 10-year sentence for crimes related to his association with Bulger, including racketeering, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI.
Former FBI supervisor John Morris testified about taking $7,000 in bribes from Bulger, a case of wine and hosting dinner parties for Bulger and others.
Sheri Qualters can be contacted at email@example.com.