Prosecution begins to detail its considerable evidence against Whitey Bulger

Lawyer for Irish-American agreed his client had engaged in illegal gambling, loan sharking, extortion, drug trafficking and other crimes

JW Carney, defense attorney for accused mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, talks to reporters as he arrives at the US Federal Courthouse for the start of Bulger’s trial in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Reuters

JW Carney, defense attorney for accused mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, talks to reporters as he arrives at the US Federal Courthouse for the start of Bulger’s trial in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Reuters


A day after the dramatic opening arguments in the epic trial of Irish-American underworld leader James “Whitey” Bulger, the legal proceedings settled into what will be more typical – a slow, methodical slog through the overwhelming years of evidence against him.

Just 24 hours after a federal prosecutor described Bulger as a hands-on killer who took naps after shooting people in the head, and his defence attorney insisted his Irish ancestry precluded him from being an FBI informant, prosecutors began assembling an mountain of evidence against him.

Prosecutor Zach Hafer led retired Massachusetts state police investigator Robert Long thorough a lengthy array of photographs showing Bulger associating with some of the most notorious criminals in Boston during the 1970s and 1980s.

Among those with whom Bulger was surreptitiously photographed by state police were the late Larry Zannino, the consigliere of the Boston faction of the Mafia, a killer who once bragged within earshot of an FBI bug that Bulger and his partner in crime Steve Flemmi would kill anyone the Mafia asked them to.

Compromised investigation
During his cross-examination of Mr Long, Bulger’s lead attorney, Jay Carney, raised the spectre of Long’s investigation of Bulger in 1980 being compromised by federal authorities.

Crucial to Bulger’s defence is his attorneys’ determination to put the FBI and the US justice department on trial for protecting him and letting him engage in criminal activity even as honest police officers like Long tried to put him in prison.

The second witness of the day, retired Massachusetts state police commander Tom Foley, spent much of his testimony outlining how he got on to Bulger by building cases against bookmakers who paid Bulger “rent” or “tribute” for the privilege of engaging in illegal gambling.

Under the questioning of federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak, Mr Foley explained how he used Boston’s top bookie, Chico Krantz, as the vehicle to build a case against Bulger, Flemmi and a cast of Mafia figures who were extorting bookmakers in the 1990s.

One of Bulger’s lawyers, Hank Brennan, lashed into Mr Foley, accusing him of ignoring other murders that key prosecution witness John Martorano knew about and focusing exclusively on murders involving Bulger and Flemmi.

Mr Brennan accused Nr Foley of ignoring murders allegedly committed by Pat Nee, an Irish-born gangster who organised the 1984 gun-running mission for the IRA that culminated with Irish Naval Service’s seizing of the Tralee-based trawler Marita Ann and the arrest of IRA men, including Sinn Féin’s Martin Ferris.

Mr Foley said he had limited investigative resources and was focused on nailing Bulger and Flemmi.

For nearly an hour, Mr Foley showed the jury a cache of high- powered weapons that police seized from homes in South Boston and nearby Somerville where the Bulger gang stashed their formidable arsenal. The weapons included German- made automatic machine guns and an M-16 rifle that was standard issue for the US military.

Crimes acknowledged
Legal analysts say the laying out of evidence against Bulger is almost perfunctory, as his lawyer acknowledged in court on Wednesday that Bulger had engaged in illegal gambling, loan-sharking, extortion, drug- trafficking and other crimes.

They say Bulger knows he is going to die in prison and is obsessed with convincing the jury he was not an informer and did not kill two women whose murders are among 19 with which he is charged.