News Column

Bulger Found Guilty of 11 Murders

August 12, 2013

A jury on Monday convicted legendary gangster James "Whitey" Bulger of dozens of crimes in a racketeering indictment that accused him of terrorizing the city for decades with murder, drugs and extortion and doing it while paying corrupt law enforcement officers for protection.

The jury said the government failed to prove that Bulger was involved in seven murders and a murder conspiracy carried out by a variety of criminals in the early 1970s.

But he was convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, and the jury said the government proved its case in 11 murders and three murder conspiracies, including those connected to the Bulger gang's effort to take over the World Jai Alai company in the early 1980s.

The guilty verdicts destroy whatever remained of the Bulger myth, created by his friends in the FBI, that one of the country's most violent criminals was really a "good" bad guy, a hoodlum with a blue-collar heart who, among other things, kept drug dealers out of Irish-American South Boston, his power base.

The jury signaled it reached a verdict at about 1:30 p.m.

"There will be order in this court during the rendering of the verdict," U.S. District Judge Denise Casper admonished relatives of victims, as they waited tensely for the jury's findings and the announcement of the verdicts.

As Clerk Lisa Hourihan read the seven-page verdict form, Bulger watched and listened impassively. He stood calmly between his lawyers at the defense table, his hands clasped loosely in front of him.

Specifically, of the counts outlined in the indictment against Bulger, the jury found him guilty of racketeering conspiracy and racketeering, as well as of more than a dozen counts that included multiple extortions, a dozen or so money-laundering counts and multiple weapons offenses.

Of the 33 separate racketeering acts charged as part of the indictment's racketeering count, the jury said the government had failed to prove seven murders and related murder conspiracy counts. Most dated to the early 1970s, involved multiple participants and were based on information provided by former Bulger partner John Martorano, an admitted 20-time killer.

The jury also cleared Bulger of the murder of Debra Davis, the young live-in girlfriend of former Bulger partner Stephen "the Rifleman" Flemmi. Bulger vigorously denied strangling the young woman. The jury found the government had proved, however, that Bulger strangled Flemmi's stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey, whom Flemmi admits having sexually abused.

Bulger also was convicted of directing ruthless extortions that he used to seize control of drug distribution in South Boston and elsewhere, a business from which he collected as much as $500,000 a week by flooding the neighborhood with tons of cocaine and marijuana and creating an army of addicts.

Other evidence put the now 83-year-old crime boss at the center of an ambitious plot by his Winter Hill gang and a corrupt former FBI agent to penetrate the U.S. pari-mutuel industry by taking over the World Jai Alai company.

Bulger signed on to the murderous jai alai plot, an ex-gang partner testified, even though he worried from the outset that the law enforcement attention it was certain to generate would be his undoing. Bulger was right. Four of the murders for which he was convicted were related to his gang's attempt to shoot its way into World Jai Alai.

Bulger won't try to hold onto $822,000 in cash and an arsenal found hidden in the Santa Monica apartment where he was captured two years ago. But he gets to keep a diamond-studded Stanley Cup championship ring he claims he got as a gift.

The legendary gangster's interest in the ring was disclosed in legal papers made public Monday.

"The parties have agreed to exclude a Stanley Cup ring, which the defendant contends was a gift to him by a third party," the legal papers said.

There was nothing in the papers indicating who gave Bulger, 83, the ring. But his lawyers made public an undated photograph two weeks ago of Bulger posing with former Boston Bruin and Montreal Canadien Chris Nilan and the Stanley Cup. Nilan was a member of the 1986 Stanley Cup champion Canadiens.

Nilan was formerly married to one of Bulger's girlfriends, Teresa Stanley.

Those convicted of racketeering face the prospect of having to forfeit money and possessions if the government shows the money was generated by illegal activity. After conviction, defendants have a right to have forfeiture questions decided by the jury.

Bulger has waived his right to a decision by the jury and put the forfeiture of his property in the hands of the judge.

Source: (c)2013 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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