James ‘Whitey’ Bulger family plans to sue government over 'wrongful death'

Notorious mobster was killed by inmates in unlocked cell at a West Virginia federal prison 

Sarah Harvard
New York
Monday 10 December 2018 22:55 GMT
Whitey Bulger: Infamous Boston gangster killed in West Virginia jail aged 89

A lawyer for James “Whitey” Bulger is planning to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the government over the infamous gangster’s prison killing.

On October 30, some hours after arriving at a West Virginia federal prison, the 89-year-old was beaten to death by inmates inside his unlocked prison cell.

Hank Brennan, Bulger’s lawyer for seven years, said he would put forward wrongful death and negligence claims on behalf of the gangster’s estate.

In late September, the mobster told Mr Brennan that he received word he would be released from solitary confinement at a Florida federal prison and transferred to a prison medical facility. Bulger, however, was instead sent to a penitentiary at Hazelton, West Virginia.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons, told the Wall Street Journal Bulger was transferred to Hazelton after he allegedly made threats against a staff member, an allegation Mr Brennan denied.

The newspaper said the bureau declined to comment on any medical issues, or the threat of a lawsuit, and that it previously said it had sent a team of experts to the Hazelton complex “to assess operational activities and correctional security practices and measures to determine any relevant facts that may have contributed to the incident”.

Bulger’s medical classification was lowered to stipulate the 89-year-old needed less medical attention before he was transferred to Hazleton. Mr Brennan said Bulger’s medical classification should not have been downgraded since his health was worsening. The lawyer said Bulger was wheelchair-bound, appeared to be sickly, and complained about frequent heart complications, when the two last met in the central Florida prison in June.

“It’s important for the family and the public to know why the prisons decided to wheel an 89-year-old man with a history of heart attacks into one of the most dangerous prisons in the country,” Mr Brennan told the Journal.

Mr Brennan said he expected to file a series of lawsuits in the next month, but did not provide any further details.

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Bulger was convicted in 2013 for his involvement in 11 murders among other crimes including extortion, money-laundering and drug-dealing from the 1970s to the mid-1990s.

The authorities are investigating his death as a murder, and believe that inmates targeted him because he served as an FBI informant, a claim he repeatedly denied. Two mobsters from Massachusetts are suspected to be involved in Bulger’s death, including a mafia hit man serving a life-sentence in the same prison.

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