The trial for notorious Boston criminal mastermind James "Whitey" Bulger started Wednesday with his attorneys admitting in opening statements that the gangster made millions of dollars through gambling and drugs and paid off corrupt law enforcement officials, but they argued Bulger was never an informant for the FBI.
Bulger faces a 32-count indictment for allegedly killing 19 people and being protected because of his status as an FBI informant, among other crimes, during a 30-year reign as one of the most terrifying criminals in Boston's underworld. Bulger was the basis for Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed, if this all sounds slightly familiar. The 83-year-old real-life criminal was arrested by the FBI living a colorful life as a retiree in a California apartment complex in 2011 after years evading law enforcement. At one point, some were taking bets over what would be found first: "Whitey" Bulger or Jimmy Hoffa's body. Hoffa won.
Prosecutor Brian Kelly called Bulger a "hands-on killer" as he described gruesome scenes of Bulger's alleged crimes during the height of his criminal enterprise. He went into pain-staking detail to describe Bulger's killing Arthur “Bucky” Barrett for $40,000 Bucky stole during a bank robbery:
Kelly said Barrett was lured to a house in South Boston where he said his prayers as he was chained and tortured by Bulger, while former Bulger associate, Kevin Weeks, looked on.
After Barrett disclosed where the cash was, Bulger and Flemmi seized the money from Barrett’s Quincy home. And then Bulger returned to deal with Barrett. He allegedly led Barrett to the dirt-floored basement of the home and shot him.
Bulger's attorney, J.W. Carney (above), acknowledged that his client worked in the criminal underworld and made money off gambling and the drug trade, but insisted that Bulger was "never, ever" an informant for the FBI. Bulger would never work as an FBI informant because he's Irish, he argued: "The worse thing an Irish person could consider was being an informant," Carney told the court. He admitted Bulger paid FBI agent John Connolly multiple times — sometimes as much as $10,000 — for tips when law enforcement were close to capturing him. "Ask yourself, would an informant be paying tens of thousands of dollars to the agent, or would it be the other way around?" Carney also worked to discredit the three former Bulger associates — former sidekick Kevin Weeks, hit man John Martorano, and right-hand man Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi — who ratted on their former boss. "Would someone like John Martorano be willing to lie against James Bulger?" Carney asked the courtroom. Martorano served 12 years in jail for admitting to 20 murders. He's also expected to be one of the prosecution's key witnesses.
And that was just the first day of an emotional trial that's expected to last until September, while Kelly and Carney spar over specifics about the crimes that once haunted the city of Boston all those years ago. Old wounds will be opened and new details will be drudged up, so one of Beantown's most notorious criminals might spend at least some time behind bars.
[Inset via AP]