Mob boss described as 'vicious, violent'

2013-08-05 18:59
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Boston - Prosecutors on Monday described Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger as a "vicious, violent and calculating" criminal whose actions could not be separated from those of other gangsters who testified against him at his murder and racketeering trial.

In closing arguments, federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak urged jurors to conclude that the testimony of three former members of Bulger's "Winter Hill" gang, who described 19 murders he was charged with committing or ordering in the 1970s and '80s, provided an accurate picture of the 83-year-old defendant.

"The evidence in this trial has convincingly proven that the defendant was one of the most vicious, violent and calculating criminals to ever walk the streets of Boston," assistant US attorney Wyshak said in summing up the eight week-long trial.

Lawyers for Bulger, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, would make their closing statement later on Monday in the US District Court in Boston and the jury is expected to begin deliberating on Tuesday.

Bulger's story has fascinated Boston for years. He rose from a gritty housing project to become the city's most feared crime lord at the same time that his brother, William, was a powerful state politician.

The gangster served time in Alcatraz during his long criminal career and lived as a fugitive for 16 years before his capture in California two years ago.

Wyshak recounted the testimony of three top Bulger allies: Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, John "The Executioner" Martorano and Kevin Weeks, who testified to murdering gangland rivals, suspected informants and two women at Bulger's side or at his order.

"It was James Bulger who chose these men to commit crimes with, to murder with," Wyshak said. "The reason these men are here testifying before you in this courtroom is because of the choices James Bulger made in his life."

During the trial, the defence admitted Bulger had been a drug dealer, extortionist and loan shark - in short, an "organized criminal".

They argued most strenuously against one government assertion - that Bulger was an FBI informant, who rose to power with the help of corrupt law enforcement agents who turned a blind eye to his crimes.

In court on Friday, Bulger described the proceedings as a sham and refused to testify in a case that captured national attention, recalling a bygone era when mobsters toting machine guns left a trail of unsolved killings as they fought for control of the criminal underworld.

"My thing is, as far as I'm concerned... this is a sham and do what you want with me," Bulger, standing in a dark collarless shirt, jeans and white sneakers, told the judge.

Bulger was nicknamed "Whitey" because he once had a shock of blonde hair.

Black era for FBI in Boston

The trial, which began on 12 June, also illustrated a black era for Boston law enforcement, when FBI agents who shared Bulger's Irish ethnicity and South Boston upbringing allowed his gang to operate with impunity, in exchange for information.

They used the information against the Italian Mafia, which then was a top national target for the bureau.

Prosecutors submitted a 700-page file that corrupt FBI agent John Connolly produced over more than a decade of regular meetings with Bulger and Flemmi, which recounted tips they had provided about rival gangs, some true and some not.

Bulger adamantly denies having served as an informant, or "rat" in gang parlance, contending he paid Connolly off and that the agent invented the contents of the file to provide a cover for his regular meetings with the mobster.

"This trial is not about whether Mr Bulger was an FBI informant," Wyshak said.

Referring to one of the men Bulger is accused of shooting dead after extorting him, the prosecutor said, "It doesn't matter whether or not Mr Bulger was an FBI informant when he put the gun to the head of Arthur Barrett and pulled the trigger."

At the height of his power, Bulger fled Boston in 1994 after a tip from Connolly that arrest was imminent. Bulger's story inspired the character played by Jack Nicholson in Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning film The Departed.

Connolly is serving a 40-year prison sentence for murder and racketeering.

Read more on:    james 'whitey' bulger  |  us

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