Boston gangster ‘Whitey’ Bulger sentenced to two life terms
Bulger was convicted of 11 murders and other crimes ranging from drug distribution to racketeering, reports Simon Carswell
A courtroom artist’s sketch shows convicted mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger in federal court during the first of two days of his sentencing hearing in Boston, Massachusetts yesterday. Bulger was handed two consecutive life sentences plus five years in prison for his crimes today. image: Jane Collins/Reuters
Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger (84) faces spending the rest of his life in prison after being sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus five years for 11 murders and a litany of other crimes.
Before sentencing him, Judge Denise Casper told Boston’s most notorious criminal figure that the “scope, callousness and depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable”.
Bulger, who was convicted in August of 11 of 19 murders he was charged with and other crimes ranging from drug distribution to racketeering, sat emotionless in his orange prison jump suit. He stared ahead at the judge while she listed his crimes and their impact on the families of his victims.
The judge read out the names of the 11 murder victims of the man who along with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was for years one of America’s most wanted fugitives. She referred to the graphic testimony of his grisly crimes heard during the trial and the harrowing victim impact statements given by the relatives.
“The testimony of human suffering that you or your associates inflicted on others was at times agonising to hear and painful to watch,” the judge told a stone-faced Bulger.
“At times during the trial I wished that we were watching a movie, that what we were hearing wasn’t real but the families here know only too well it was not a movie.”
Judge Casper said Bulger’s crimes were “all the more heinous because they were all about money”, extorting money from other criminals and using money to sway law enforcement officers and agents.
She didn’t doubt that Bulger was an intelligent person, she said, but it took “no business acumen to take money from folks at the end of gun”, referring to testimony about how he put guns in the mouth and groin of two people.
Judge Casper described in detail how the bodies of his victims were “left to expire”, buried at a beach or in a basement of a house or stuffed in a trunk - “unfathomable acts conducted in unfathomable ways”.
Bulger’s murderous reign in Boston, lasting more than three decades, ended in 1994 when he fled the city, tipped off by a corrupt FBI agent that he was about be charged with crimes. He remained a fugitive for 16 years before being captured in California in 2011 in a house filled with cash, guns and fake IDs.
Referring to the notoriety of Bulger, the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie The Departed, Judge Casper spoke beyond the crimes he committed about the bad image he gave Boston.
“You have over time and in certain quarters become the face of this city, and that is regrettable,” she said. “You, sir, do not represent this city.”
Describing the big events in the city this year, “both tragic and triumphant” - a nod to the Boston Marathon bombings in April and the Red Sox World Series win in October - the federal judge told Bulger that he and his cohorts “do not and should not represent this city”.
If anything represented the city, it is “a jury who did the hard work and rendered a fair and just verdict”, said the judge.
Bulger was ordered to pay $19.5 million (€14.5 million) in restitutions to the families of his victims and $25 million to the government.
Judge Casper said that he could appeal the conviction in the next 14 days. Asked if he understood, Bulger murmured: “Yes”, the only word he spoke during the sentencing hearing.
JW Carney Jnr, one of Bulger’s two defence lawyers, has indicated he intends to appeal the decision because Bulger has claimed the trial was “a sham” as he was unable to defend himself properly and to argue that he had been given immunity from prosecution for his crimes.
Patrick Callahan, whose father was murdered by a hitman in Florida in 1982 acting on Bulger’s orders, told The Irish Times outside the court that he was happy with the judge’s sentence.
“He is an old guy - not very many years is going to be life for him,” he said. “He is locked up forever and that is good; he is very dangerous man.”