Whitey Bulger likely to die in jail as two life sentences passed
Judge tells Boston gangster ‘callousness and depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable’
Patricia Donahue, wife of murder victim Michael Donahue, with her grandson Shawn outside the courthouse after convicted mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s sentencing hearing in Boston. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters
Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger faces the prospect of dying in prison after being sentenced to two consecutive life sentences plus five years for 11 murders and a catalogue of crimes.
Before sentencing him, Judge Denise Casper told Bulger, the city’s most notorious crime figure, in a hushed courtroom that the “scope, callousness and depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable”.
Bulger (84), who was convicted in August of 11 of 19 murders with which he was charged 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 victims’ families. She 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.
Judge Casper referred to the graphic evidence detailing his grisly crimes heard during the trial and the harrowing victim impact statements heartbreakingly delivered by the families of the victims on Wednesday.
“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,” she said in a 25-minute summation.
Bulger’s crimes were “all the more heinous because they were all about money”, she said, as he extorted money from other criminals and used money to sway law enforcement officers and agents.
Judge Casper did not doubt he was intelligent, she said, but it took “no business acumen to take money from folks at the end of gun”, referring to how he put guns in the mouth and groin of two people.
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.
He remained a fugitive for 16 years before being captured in California in 2011 in a house filled with cash, guns and fake IDs.
During a two-month trial, prosecutors painted Bulger as a cold-blooded, hands-on killer who murdered anyone he saw as a threat and bystanders who had the misfortune caught up in the killings. Bulger had for years portrayed himself as a Robin Hood figure helping people in his South Boston neighbourhood.
Corrupt Boston FBI agents turned a blind eye to his murders and crimes as he supplied them with information about the local mafia and other crime gangs.
Judge Casper described how bodies of his victims were “left to expire”, buried at a beach or in a basement of a house – “unfathomable acts conducted in unfathomable ways”.
Referring to the notoriety of Bulger – the subject of books, countless news reports and the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s crime boss character in the 2006 Oscar-winning movie The Departed – the judge adopted the role of Boston’s protector, defending the city against the tarnished image he gave it.
“Much ink has been spilled on you,” she told him. “You have over time and in certain quarters become the face of this city and that is regrettable.
“You, sir,” Judge Casper added, “do not represent this city.”
Describing this year’s events in the city “both tragic and triumphant” – a nod to the Boston marathon bombings in April and the Red Sox World Series win in October – the judge said that if anything represented the city, it was a jury “who did the hard work and rendered a fair and just verdict”.
Bulger, a man who prided himself on his Irish roots, was ordered to pay $19.5 million (€14.5 million) in restitutions to the families of his victims.
Judge Casper said that he could appeal the conviction in the next 14 days. Asked if he understood, he murmured: “Yes,” the only sound uttered by him during the hearing.
JW Carney jnr, defending, has said that Bulger intends to appeal the conviction. The crime boss has called the trial “a sham” as he was unable to argue his defence – that he had an immunity deal from law-enforcers who had for years protected him from prosecution.
As Bulger was led away, he shook hands with Mr Carney, again without looking behind at the relatives of his victims who attended this long-running trial.