A fugitive for 16 years, and accused of 19 murders, the long awaited trial of Whitey Bulger begins this week.
The life of a mob boss does not usually last to the average length of time.
“He’s a survivor. He’s had a very long shelf life in a profession where that is not typical,” said Dick Lehr, who has co-written two books about Bulger, including the biography “Whitey: The Life of America’s Most Notorious Mob Boss.”
“The many faces of Whitey make him intriguing,” Lehr said
The story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger’s life will have a completed screenplay before the trial is over. In his early life, neighbors thought of him as “one of the good guys.” He fed his poor neighbors turkey dinners on Thanksgiving, and kept the neighborhood drug free. Then the bodies began to appear.
Zachary Hafer, Fred Wyshak, and Brian Kelly will prosecute James “Whitey” Bulger. Wyshak and Kelly have been on the case for decades.
In 1994, former FBI Agent John Connolly Jr. tipped Bulger, and his former partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, that they were going to be indicted. Bulger remained a fugitive for more than 16 years. Bulger was finally captured in Santa Monica, California in 2011. Flemmi is serving a life sentence in a federal prison for murder.
Connolly was accused in open court of leaking information to the two mobsters, which also resulted in the 1982 slaying of Boston businessman John B. Callahan in Florida. He claimed he had ‘nothing to do with it’.
Wyshak and Kelly began investigating Bulger in the early 1990’s. A Boston magazine once nicknamed them “Batman and Robin.”
They were battling their own superiors, some of whom were believed to have been protecting Bulger. They were forced to fight elements in the FBI when they insisted on Bulger being the center of their investigation.
“You had a prosecution team that cared about only one thing, and that was getting to the truth, the facts,” said former US attorney Donald Stern, who held that office at the time the investigation began. “They are dedicated. They didn’t care about politics, or what the FBI thought, or what the State Police thought, they were just determined to unearth the facts — the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
Kelly, now 52, and Wyshak, 60, are also working with Zachary T. Hafer, 37, to end their decade’s long investigation and search for the man accused of 19 murders.
“No one knows more about this story than they do, they’ve lived it,” said Anthony Cardinale, a Boston lawyer who represented former Mafia head Francis P. “Cadillac Frank” Salemme during the 1998 federal court hearings that exposed Flemmi and Bulger’s secret relationship with the FBI.
“From a standpoint of career prosecutors, this is the icing on the cake, and it’s the culmination of a lot of work on their part, and I think they’re going to be very happy to end this crazy story,” Cardinale said.
Former hit man John Martorano, who admitted killing 20 people, will also take the stand, as will Kevin Weeks, a former Bulger lieutenant who eventually led authorities to half a dozen bodies.
Bulger’s lawyers have made it clear that they will attack the credibility of men they describe as “once-reviled criminal defendants” whom prosecutors have eagerly transformed into “loyal government witnesses.”
“The government now offers these men as witnesses against James Bulger with no apparent regard for their complete lack of credibility,” attorneys J.W. Carney Jr. and Hank Brennan wrote in a recent court filing.
Bulger’s first arrests were in Boston for bank robbery. He served time at Alcatraz and other federal prisons. He became known as one of Boston’s most notorious criminals. His brother, William, was one of Massachusetts’ most famous politicians, leading the state senate for 17 years.
“If you go back to his childhood, he was nothing more than an incorrigible juvenile who was destined to go on to live a life of criminality, and that’s exactly what he did,” said Tom Duffy, a retired state police major who was one of the lead Bulger investigators.
It is widely known that Bulger was the central figure in the 2006 Martin Scorsese film “The Departed.” The ‘Winter Hill Gang’ was a mostly Irish group who dealt in loan-sharking, drugs, and illegal gambling.
Billy O’Brien was born four days after his father, William O’Brien, was gunned down in March 1973. Authorities say Bulger and his gang killed O’Brien and 10 others in a dispute with members of a rival group.
O’Brien never met his father.
“You’d have all this crazy stuff that runs through your head. You’re seeing someone that’s responsible for killing your father. You have all these things that come to you that you want to say, but I’m a kid then. What was I going to do?” O’Brien said.
“I want to know the reason why my father was killed,” he said.
“I’m still looking for that to this day.”
Accused of 19 murders, Whitey Bulger’s trial begins this week
The Guardian Express