Federal prosecutors on Wednesday opened a trial that many
thought would never take place with a frightening account of what they claim
were decades of cold-blooded murder and thievery by notorious crime boss James
In a long and chilling opening statement to jurors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly talked of extortion victims chained to chairs and tortured before being shot in the head and buried in a cellar.
He described women being strangled and teeth being pulled from the mouths of murder victims in an effort to prevent identification of bodies. He said tons of drugs were shipped into Boston and millions of dollars were laundered through real estate purchases.
And for nearly 30 years, Kelly said, FBI agents and police officers were paid tens of thousands of dollars to look the other way.
"It is a case about organized crime, public corruption and all kinds of illegal activities," Kelly said. "It is about a criminal enterprise which is a group of criminals that ran amuck in the city of Boston for almost 30 years. And at the center of all this murder and mayhem is one man, the defendant James Bulger."
Bulger is being tried on a 32 count indictment that charges him with 23 money launder charges, two counts of racketeering, five firearm charges and two extortion counts. Bulger also is accused in the indictment with carrying out or helping to plan 19 murders.
In his opening statement to the jury, Bulger's lawyer, Jay Carney, said the government's chief witnesses are former Bulger gang associates trying to shift responsibility for tier crimes to him. He also questioned the integrity of the FBI office that built the case against Bulger, conceding that agents in the Boston office were on the Bulger payroll.
Carney made several startling assertions while giving jurors an over view of the defense case, among them a claim that Bulger was not trying to hide during the 16 years the FBI said he was a fugitive.
The government claims a an FBI agent Bulger was paying tipped him to an indictment in the late 1990s and Bulger was a fugitive until he was apprehended two years ago in Santa Monica, Calif.
Carney said Bulger was not tipped to the impending indictment, but rather learned about it from a radio news report released by federal prosecutors trying to publicize their investigative activities.
"It was something as mundane as that," Carney said. "And he settled in California. Not hiding. Living openly in plain sight for 16 years while those FBI agents, I submit, pretended to look for him."
Carney conceded that Bulger made "millions and millions of dollars" through crime and paid thousands in bribes to law enforcement
"James Bulger was involved in criminal activities in Boston," Carney said. "He was involved in bookmaking. He also lent money to people at very high rates, it's called loan sharking. He was involved in drug dealing. And in order to protect his business he wanted to pay for information and received it from corrupt law enforcement officers.
But Carney said Bulger denies, as the government claims, killing two women, both former lovers of his former partner Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi.
Bulger also denies the government's contention that he was involved in a series of killings in the early 1980s that his gang carried out as part of an effort to take over World Jai Alai, a pari-mutuel gambling business.
Bulger specifically denied participating in killings in Florida and Oklahoma, states in which he now faces murder prosecutions and the possibility of death sentences.
(c)2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
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