A Boston federal judge on Thursday handed down two consecutive life sentences plus five years for convicted mobster James “Whitey” Bulger and ordered him to pay $19.5 million in restitution.
“The scope, the callousness the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable,” U.S. District Judge Denise Casper said.
During a press conference later, Bulger’s lawyers hinted that the government’s deals with Bulger’s former associates concealed government corruption. Hank Brennan, of counsel to Boston’s Carney & Bassil, complained that there’s “something missing” in the way of evidence or people who have yet to be prosecuted or targeted.
“We know that there was not just a rogue agent or one person who acted alone” to help Bulger, Brennan said, referring to former FBI agent John Connolly Jr., imprisoned for feeding information to Bulger and second-degree murder.
Earlier, Casper conceded that Bulger “certainly had some well placed law enforcement on your payroll and in your pocket,” plus participation by associates. Still, the sentence reflected the severity of his actions, she said.
In August, a jury found Bulger guilty of extortion, money laundering, firearms offenses plus racketeering based on 11 of counts of murder, drug offenses, extortion and money laundering.
Bulger, 84, was a notorious South Boston underworld figure during the 1970s and 1980s. He went on the run for nearly 16 years before his June 2011 arrest in Santa Monica, Calif.
During the trial, former FBI supervisor John Morris—now a government witness—testified about taking $7,000 in bribes and a case of wine from Bulger and hosting dinner parties for the mobster and his associates.
Three Bulger cronies-turned-government witnesses—John Martorano, Stephen Flemmi and Kevin Weeks—testified in exchange for comparatively light sentences or to avoid the death penalty.
“Was it that important to put one man in jail” and give the others deals? Brennan asked during the news conference. More than one dozen agents were involved, he said, citing Flemmi’s testimony. “There’s got to be accountability. [The Justice Department] put their arms around cooperating witnesses.”
J.W. Carney Jr. of Boston’s Carney & Bassil said Brennan would be Bulger’s lead counsel on appeal. Carney will continue to do “pro bono” legal work for Bulger and his family.
Bulger’s court-appointed lawyers have been paid $2.7 million for work performed between June 2011 and June 2013, according to a September court filing.
Carney said his client was “pleased he held to his principles” by refusing to participate in the sentencing. Casper heard emotional victim-impact statements on Wednesday, but Bulger directed his lawyers not to participate in what he considered a “sham” process, his lawyers said. “It took a lot of discipline for him not to react to some of the statements made at sentencing,” Carney said.
During the hearing, one victim addressed Bulger as “Satan” and referred to him as a coward and others as a domestic terrorist and a rat.
“The myth, the legend, the saga is finally over, ” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said following the sentencing. “ Today we feel tremendous gratitude and relief.”
Sheri Qualters can be contacted at email@example.com.