The trial of James “Whitey” Bulger now underway is unearthing all sorts of sordid details about this murderous criminal’s life. But as interesting as those details are, they’re not the most important part of this trial.
Bulger’s life is nearly over, the story of his crimes has been told to a great extent, and he and his associates are no longer a factor in the world of organized crime. What is not so clear is the extent of his relationship with the government.
“Rogue” FBI agent John Connolly has already been imprisoned for aiding Bulger but continues to insist that he was not alone, that there was a far wider conspiracy involving the government. His assertion echoes that of Thomas Foley, a former state police colonel who said his efforts to take down Bulger were stymied in large part by the FBI.
Bulger also had friends and protectors among state and local police.
And major questions remain to be answered about the relationship between Bulger and his younger brother, William, the former Senate president and UMass president. He has always denied using his political power to shield his brother, but bad things happened to people who crossed the Bulgers.
In 1987, State Trooper William Johnson stopped Whitey Bulger passing through Logan Airport with bags believed to be stuffed with cash. A week later, the trooper was demoted to patrolling an airport garage.
For the sake of the public, let’s hope allegations like these won’t get swept under the rug.
We’ve already learned about the relationship between our government and mobster-turned-informant John Martorano, a witness in the Bulger trial who served only eight years in prison for 20 murders, the result of a plea deal. The government provided $6,000 in “canteen funds” to make his prison time a little easier, and $20,000 when he left the prison gates. Now he collects Social Security for his many years of “employment.”
This trial is a window into a secret world where the lines between criminals and the “good guys” are not always clear. That world desperately needs more light shined into it.