Boston judge sentences crime boss James Bulger to life in prison

Boston judge says the callousness and depravity of gangster's crimes are almost unfathomable

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 November, 2013, 9:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 4:20am


Former Boston crime boss James "Whitey" Bulger has been led off to prison for the rest of his life, accepting his punishment in stone-faced silence as a judge castigated the 84-year-old gangster for his "almost unfathomable" depravity.

Bulger's sentencing on Thursday for his murderous reign in the 1970s and '80s brought to a close a sordid case that exposed FBI complicity in his crimes and left a trail of devastated families whose loved ones were killed by Bulger or his henchmen.

Many of the relatives had vented their anger at Bulger during the first day of his sentencing hearing, calling him a "terrorist", a "punk" and "Satan".

So when US District Judge Denise Casper announced the punishment - two consecutive life sentences plus five years - there were no shouts of joy or applause from the families, just silence.

Afterwards, many said they took some satisfaction in knowing that Bulger would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

"That old b***ard is finally going to prison. He's going to die in prison," said Tom Donahue, whose father was gunned down by Bulger after he happened to offer a ride home to a man who was Bulger's actual target.

That old b***ard is finally going to prison. He’s going to die in prison

Bulger, the former boss of the Winter Hill Gang, Boston's mostly Irish-American mob, fled the city in 1994 after being tipped off by a former FBI agent that he was about to be indicted. He was a fugitive for more than 16 years until he was captured in Santa Monica in California in 2011.

His disappearance became a major embarrassment for the FBI when it was learned that Boston agents had taken bribes from Bulger and protected him for years while he worked as an FBI informant, feeding information on the rival New England Mafia.

A jury convicted Bulger in August in a broad racketeering case. He was found guilty of 11 of the 19 killings he was accused of, along with dozens of other gangland crimes, including shakedowns and money laundering.

At his sentencing, the judge read off the names of the 11. She told Bulger she sometimes wished that she and everyone else at his trial were watching a movie because the horrors described - including stranglings and shootings - were so awful.

"The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable," she said before imposing the punishment prosecutors had requested.

The judge also ordered Bulger to pay US$19.5 million in restitution to the victims' families and to forfeit an additional US$25.2 million to the government, based on prosecutors' estimate of how much his gang took in from drugs, extortion and gambling.

It is unclear how much Bulger will be able to pay. Prosecutors did find US$822,000 in cash stashed in the walls of his flat when he was caught.

Bulger, who was known for his volcanic temper, snarled obscenities at several once-loyal cohorts during his trial, but he said nothing at all at his sentencing and left the courtroom without even looking at a brother and other supporters.

J.W. Carney, one of Bulger's lawyers, said Bulger was "pleased that he held to his principles" by staying silent and refusing to participate in the sentencing.

Bulger's lawyers said he believed his trial was a "sham" because he was not allowed to argue that a now-deceased federal prosecutor gave him immunity to commit crimes.