‘Whitey’ Bulger impassive as relatives of victims vent anger

Gangster labelled ‘a disgrace to the Irish’ during a day of powerful testimony in Boston


Irish-American gangster James “Whitey” Bulger was labelled a “disgrace to the Irish” and a “little sociopath” as a prosecutor urged a Boston judge to sentence the killer to prison for the rest of his life.

Bulger, leader of south Boston’s Winter Hill Gang and an FBI informant, declined to speak during the two-day sentencing hearing as relatives of his murder victims gave harrowing testimony of how their families had been affected over the past four decades.

“The defendant has committed one heinous crime after another,” assistant US attorney Brian Kelly said. “The carnage that he has caused is grotesque.”

Characterising Bulger as a career criminal who had been “getting arrested since Harry Truman was president,” Kelly rubbished the case put forward by Bulger’s lawyers that he couldn’t be an FBI informant because he was Irish and the shame in Ireland of being an informer.

“It is a ridiculous statement,” he said. “In fact it is a disgrace to the Irish: murdering women, killing men who were handcuffed, flooding his own neighbourhood with drugs.”

In August a jury convicted Bulger of 11 out of 19 murders he was charged with. He was also convicted of racketeering, extortion, drug distribution, money laundering and firearms charges.

On the run
Bulger fled Boston in 1994 and was on the run for 16 years until he was captured in California in 2011. He will be sentenced in court today.

In the face of objections from lawyers for the 84-year-old criminal, Judge Denise Casper allowed relatives of all 19 victims to speak at yesterday’s hearing if they wanted to.

A dozen spoke. One by one, they talked of fathers missing from a first day at school, a first baseball game, weekend trips out for hotdogs and even their own birth, stolen from them.

Sean McGonagle (49), whose father Paul was shot dead by Bulger in 1974, looked at Bulger, who sat facing away from the witnesses, and called him “Satan”.

“You thought you carried yourself as an Irish icon but nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “You are a domestic terrorist fuelled by greed and a sickening ego.”

Bulger telephoned his house in 1975 to tell him his father was “not coming home for Christmas”, he told the court. When McGonagle asked who was calling, Bulger replied: “Santa Claus.”

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit over a white T-shirt, a pale Bulger stared down emotionless, wearing reading glasses and scribbling on a notepad.

Marie Mahoney – whose father William O’Brien was murdered by Bulger, according to prosecutors, but which a jury found was not proven – shouted: “We got you, you rat!” at him as she walked away.

“You won’t even turn around and look at us?” said Patrick Callahan, who was 14 when his father was slain by a hitman acting on Bulger’s orders in Florida in 1982.

David Wheeler held up a photo of his father, murdered Oklahoma businessman Roger Wheeler, and attacked “institutional corruption” in the FBI and Justice Department that protected Bulger for years.

Wheeler told the court the Justice Department had admitted in a filing to another US court that the FBI “bore some responsibility for both the death of Roger Wheeler and the subsequent cover-up”.

FBI must ‘come clean’
“It won’t end for me until the FBI and the Justice Department come clean and we have a chance to face them in court,” Wheeler told reporters afterwards.

Steven Davis struggled to talk about the murder of his sister Debra, who prosecutors said was strangled by Bulger. The jury made no finding in her murder.

“This man has built up so much hate in my heart, I’d like to strangle him myself,” said Davis, adding: “You piece of shit, look at me!” drawing one of only two visible reactions from Bulger during the hearing.

The other reaction came when Theresa Bond, daughter of Arthur Barrett who was shot by Bulger in 1983 while handcuffed to a chair, asked: “Mr Bulger, will you please look at me?”

He looked up from his notepad to glance briefly in her direction. Bond said she forgave him.“I was going to ask could I go in front of him,” Bond told The Irish Times afterwards. “I got his attention; I know I got his ears.”

Describing Bulger as a “gutless rat” for not looking at the relatives, Mr Davis told this newspaper: “I know I got under his skin. I bother him . . . I like that.”

Describing the hearing as “one of the most powerful presentations I have ever seen in a courtroom,” Bulger’s attorney JW Carney said his client reacted “to the power of their words” by almost turning to face them a couple of times “when it was clear that he had not intended to.”Asked by Judge Casper whether he had anything to say, Bulger – whose lawyers said he saw the trial as a “sham” – said: “No.”