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Sunday 31 August 2014

Mob boss Whitey Bulger will spend his last days behind bars

Families tell of 'unfathomable depravity'

Jon Swaine New York

Published 15/11/2013 | 02:00

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Bulger's mugshot after his arrest in 2011
Mobster 'Whitey' Bulger in 1995
Bulger's long-time girlfriend Catherine Greig, who was sentenced to eight years

James 'Whitey' Bulger, the Irish American mob boss who terrorised Boston for decades before spending 16 years on the run from the FBI, has been jailed for the rest of his life after being convicted of 11 murders.

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Bulger was sentenced to two life terms plus five years, and ordered to pay $19m (€14m) in restitution to his victims, for what Judge Denise Casper described as crimes of "almost unfathomable" depravity.

"You have over time become a face of this city," Judge Casper told the 84-year-old, who sat staring ahead at Boston's federal courthouse. "That is regrettable. You do not represent this city."

Bulger was in August convicted of brutal murders, along with extortion and money laundering charges, dating back to his Winter Hill Gang's brutal protection racket on the city's south side from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Relatives of his victims were given the opportunity to address him during the two-day sentencing hearing, which brought to an end a trial that few in the city thought would ever take place.

Sean McGonagle, whose father Paul was among those killed, told Bulger that he was "Satan" and a "domestic terrorist" who ruined the lives of "hundreds of families".

The story of Bulger runs through the folklore of working-class Boston, whose residents swore he would never be caught, and inspired Martin Scorsese's Oscar-winning 2006 film 'The Departed'.

However, he was caught in 2011 hiding in a flat in Santa Monica, California, with Catherine Greig, his girlfriend, following a tip-off the FBI from a former neighbour.

Posing as married retirees from Chicago, the pair had stashed 30 weapons and $800,000 (€595,000) in cash inside their apartment. Greig was last year sentenced to eight years for assisting Bulger.

Bulger, who remained silent as he was led out of the court in an orange boiler suit, has two weeks to lodge an appeal against his convictions. His lawyers have indicated he will do so.

Judge Casper heard testimony from a dozen relatives among the 19 slaying victims.

They called him a terrorist, a punk and even Satan. Prosecutors called him a sociopath.

Yesterday Judge Casper delivered a blistering speech before sentencing Bulger to two consecutive life sentences plus five years, as prosecutors had requested.

She called his crimes "almost unfathomable" and the human suffering he inflicted "agonising to hear" and "painful to watch".

She said at times during the trial she wished she and everyone else in the courtroom were watching a movie, because the horror described seemed unreal.

She read off the names of Bulger's 11 victims.

"Each of these lives came to an unceremonious end at your hands or at the hands of others at your direction," Judge Casper said.

BODIES

Bulger was seen for years as a Robin Hood figure who bought Thanksgiving turkeys for working-class South-Boston residents and kept hard drugs out of the neighbourhood.

But that image was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies more than a decade ago.

Prosecutors at his two-month trial portrayed him as a cold-blooded, hands-on boss who killed anyone he saw as a threat, along with innocent people who happened to get in the way.

Corrupt Boston FBI agents protected Bulger for years while he worked simultaneously as a crime boss and an FBI informant who ratted out the rival New England Mafia and other crime groups.

Former Boston FBI agent John Connolly Jr – Bulger's handler when he was an informant – was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of tipping him off ahead of an indictment.

After receiving the tip in 1994, Bulger fled Boston and remained a fugitive for more than 16 years until he was captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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