Wednesday 18 October 2017

Bulger tries to blame FBI but blood is on his hands

Notorious mob boss still thinks he has chance of an acquittal, writes Kevin Cullen, as jurors deliberate a verdict

Kevin Cullen

Whitey Bulger stood at the defendant's table on Friday, smiling as the jury that will decide his fate filed out after failing to reach a verdict on its fourth day of deliberations.

You could see it in Bulger's face: he thought he had a chance.

He, along with his lawyers Jay Carney and Hank Brennan, may have been the only ones in the Boston courtroom who really thought he had a chance to beat the rap, as he has beaten so many raps over his nearly 84 years on this earth.

Bulger's defence is basically this: I did it, but the FBI made me do it.

Now, there are some caveats. He insists he did not kill the two women, Debra Davis and Deborah Hussey, whose murders are among the 19 he is charged with. His lawyers also spent much of the trial refuting something which is not a crime but which Bulger insists he is not: an informer.

Even while admitting Bulger is a gangster who made millions from the drug trade, his lawyers asked the jury to acquit him, to send a message to the federal government that they won't tolerate corruption.

Carney told the jurors if they respected the US Constitution they should let Bulger go. Brennan said federal prosecutors had used an army of admitted murderers, thugs and drug dealers to build a case against the 83-year-old former head of the Irish mob in South Boston, or Southie.

The defence was dead on about how corrupt FBI agents and their supervisors, all the way to Washington, not only turned a blind eye to Bulger's murderous exploits, but actually helped Bulger target potential witnesses against him for assassination.

The problem with the defence is that it is entirely disingenuous. It not only ignores, but has gone into contortions to deny the only reasonable explanation for why the FBI was so determined to protect Bulger: he was their tout.

Bulger had bragged in letters that I and my co-author, Shelley Murphy, used in our book, Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice, about how he could not wait to take the witness stand and expose his former handlers in the FBI as corrupt liars.

But in the end, Bulger refused to testify, claiming that the presiding judge, Denise Casper, had prevented him from using his defence: that a federal prosecutor named Jeremiah O'Sullivan had given him a licence to kill in gratitude for Bulger saving his life from Mafia assassins.

Bulger's story is pure fantasy. There is no evidence that anyone in the Mafia had seriously considered or would have been so stupid as to kill O'Sullivan and bring that kind of heat down. Indeed, any Mafioso who took part in such a brazen act would have been murdered by his fellow Mafiosi long before the feds got a hold of him.

Bulger had no paperwork or other witnesses to back up his claim. O'Sullivan was conveniently dead, of natural causes.

Bulger fancies himself an intellectual, a cut above the average "deze and doze" gangster. But, when explaining his refusal to testify, he didn't quite sound like a guy who brags about reading Machiavelli and Kant.

"I didn't get a fair trial," he whined, "and this is a sham, and do what yooze want with me. That's it. That's my final word."

Sort of appropriate that his final word would include a "yooze". For all his literary pretensions, Bulger is a thug, and he talks like one.

As for Whitey's complaint that he didn't get a fair trial, it was lot fairer than the mock trials and summary executions he gave Bucky Barrett and John McIntyre, whose bodies he and his degenerate partner in crime Stevie Flemmi buried in a house just up the street from the homes of Whitey's politician brother Bill and Flemmi's elderly mom.

A civil court has already found Bulger guilty of those murders, along with a number of others.

Tony Cardinale, an attorney who deserves credit for exposing the FBI's Faustian embrace of the informants Whitey Bulger and Steve Flemmi, described Whitey's performance as classic.

"He's lying when he said he couldn't say he got immunity," Cardinale said. "He could have said that from the stand. He's a liar."

Which we already knew.

We also know, thanks to Bulger's own lawyers, that he made millions from the drug trade that his politician brother and other apologists always insisted he avoided.

Billy Shea, who Bulger set up in the cocaine business, testified that he was paying Whitey $10,000 a week as Bulger's pushers peddled poison up and down Broadway.

Whitey's self-serving claims about why he refused to take the stand avoided some more obvious reasons. Whitey didn't want to subject himself to cross-examination, when prosecutors would have savaged him, asking him questions about how he was charged with rape while he was in the Air Force. They would have also produced records showing that, as far back as 1956, Bulger was an informant who implicated his accomplices in a string of bank robberies.

Bulger made one last stab at propagating his 'good, bad -guy' image, saying he wanted to donate to the Donahue family the $822,000 seized from the rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica where he spent most of the 16 years he was on the run.

A civil court has already ruled that Bulger shot and killed Michael Donahue, an innocent truck driver who had the misfortune of offering a ride home to a hoodlum named Brian Halloran, not knowing Halloran was marked for death after offering Whitey up to the FBI.

But Donahue's widow Pat and their three sons Michael Jr, Shawn and Tommy have been stymied in their 32-year odyssey to find all those responsible. They've been frustrated by the government's seeming indifference to the identity of the second man in the car with Whitey.

There was evidence introduced at trial that Pat Nee, a Galway-born Southie gangster, was that second man. But throughout the trial, the defence has shown itself more willing to plumb the unsolved mystery of the second man.

Of course, that's because it suits their strategy, to keep the jury focussed on government misconduct, on the government being so obsessed with getting a guilty verdict against Whitey that they would overlook crimes by his confederates.

But, at the end of the day, Bulger and his lawyers are trying to escape the legal consequences of Michael Donahue's death.

And it is the hypocrisy at the heart of Bulger's empty gesture to offer the $822,000 as recompense to the Donahues, and his lawyers insisting they want to do right by the victims, that infused prosecutor Fred Wyshak with such indignation.

For many years it was Wyshak, prosecutor Brian Kelly, and State Police Lt Steve Johnson and DEA agent Dan Doherty who sat behind the Donahues in court, showing them support, defying their Justice Department colleagues who fought the Donahues' lawsuit against the government.

And for all those years, Jay Carney and Hank Brennan, and certainly Whitey Bulger, were nowhere to be found.

"The defence wants to hold themselves up as sympathetic to the Donahues," Wyshak told the jury. "Don't buy it."

But as long as the jury deliberates, Whitey Bulger figures he has a chance.

The jury resumes deliberations tomorrow in a courthouse named for Whitey Bulger's old neighbour, the late congressman Joe Moakley, whose mother Whitey used to give rides home to from the grocery store in a car he could afford, because he was a criminal.

How Southie is that?

Kevin Cullen is a columnist for 'The Boston Globe' and co-author, with Shelley Murphy, of 'Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice'.

Sunday Independent

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