BOSTON – Legendary crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, who used a corrupt relationship with law enforcement to terrorize the city for decades, was convicted by a jury Monday of 11 murders and dozens of other crimes.
The 83-year old Bulger, who opened his trial by flinging obscenities at witnesses who displeased him, stood silently and watched, hands clasped at his waist, as a court clerk read through seven pages of crimes, most of which the jury concluded he had committed. The guilty findings should keep Bulger in prison for the rest of his life.
The conviction and years of investigation preceding it reveal not only the grotesque violence for which Bulger and his partners were routinely responsible, but the degree to which he had corrupted the local FBI office. There was testimony Bulger paid an agent a quarter million dollars and, in return, repeatedly received information he used to kill witnesses.
The verdicts destroyed whatever remained of the Bulger myth – a myth cultivated by Bulger and his friends in federal law enforcement – that one of the country’s most violent criminals was really a “good” bad guy, a hoodlum with a blue-collar heart who, among other things, kept drug dealers out of Irish-American South Boston, his power base.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said the jury verdicts mark “the end of an era that was very ugly in Boston’s history.”
“Today is a day that many in this city thought would never come,” Ortiz said. “The day of reckoning for Whitey Bulger has been long in coming, in fact too long.”
There was evidence at the trial, including more than 500 pages of FBI reports, that Bulger was a long-time FBI informant who gave up fellow South Boston criminals – not to mention, his own partners – without hesitation. Bulger used the informant relationship to co-opt the FBI, providing gifts and cash to as many as six agents.
Bulger’s corrupt FBI handlers in Boston convinced senior prosecutors and Washington FBI officials that he should be protected from arrest because he was a potential source of information about the Justice Department’s top target, the Italian mafia. In reality, the evidence showed Bulger had little to offer about the mafia.
In the meantime, the jury concluded, he was directing ruthless extortions that he used to seize control of drug distribution in South Boston and elsewhere. He collected as much as $500,000 a week by flooding his own neighborhood with tons of cocaine and marijuana and creating an army of addicts.
The jury convicted Bulger on 31 counts of a broad 32-count racketeering indictment. He was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy, racketeering, extortion, 23 money-launder counts and five weapons counts.