Dramatic trial of mob boss James Whitey Bulger accused of 19 murders nears verdict
Defendant inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in the Oscar-winning movie The Departed
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Monday 05 August 2013
Notorious mob boss James Whitey Bulger was “one of the most vicious, violent and calculating criminals ever to walk the streets of Boston”, prosecutors said yesterday, at the end of a lengthy, belated and often unruly trial.
A Boston jury is due to begin its deliberations today after hearing the closing arguments in the eight-week trial. Over that time the court has heard from 73 witnesses, who detailed alleged crimes including extortion, money-laundering and racketeering.
Bulger is also accused of participating in 19 murders during the 1970s and 1980s, when he is thought to have been the leader of the city’s notorious Winter Hill Gang. He fled Boston in 1994, and was finally caught just two years ago, living with his girlfriend in Santa Monica, California.
The trial’s most explosive testimony came from Bulger’s long-time associate Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi, who insisted he and Bulger had themselves been FBI informants for 15 years during their criminal careers. Flemmi also claimed Bulger killed Deborah Hussey, Flemmi’s stepdaughter, in 1985. The two men hurled obscenities at one another across the courtroom.
John Morris, a corrupt former FBI agent who confessed to taking pay-offs from Bulger, broke down in tears in court as he apologised to the family of one of Bulger’s alleged victims.
Another witness, Stephen Rakes, 59, never made it to the stand. He intended to testify that he had been extorted by Bulger, but he was found dead on 17 July. William Camuti, who owed Rakes money, was arrested for murder after allegedly poisoning Rakes’ iced coffee.
Bulger, who pleaded not guilty, chose not to testify in his own defence, declaring the trial a “sham”. A family member of one of his alleged victims screamed “You’re a coward!” as Bulger announced his decision.
The infamous Boston mobster, who inspired Jack Nicholson’s character in the Oscar-winning movie The Departed, is also the subject of two forthcoming Hollywood projects – including a mooted biopic produced by Ben Affleck, starring Matt Damon as Bulger.
In his closing arguments, Assistant US Attorney Fred Wyshak, who hunted Bulger for years while he was on the run, told the court that the Winter Hill Gang had grown out of a turf war that erupted during the late-1960s.
“These men were the victors,” he said. “They were feared. They were armed to the teeth. They were like a paramilitary organisation. They had stolen vehicles and back-up cars to crash into police. They used walkie-talkies. They hunted their prey. They hunted people. They were the scariest people walking the streets of Boston.”
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