BOSTON (AP) — One of the FBI’s Most Wanted for more than a decade, James “Whitey” Bulger went on trial last week. Here’s a look back at the first week of the racketeering trial of a man who prosecutors say participated in 19 killings.
The 83-year-old Bulger, who authorities say led the Winter Hill Gang, was one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives after he fled Boston in 1994. He was captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had been living with his longtime girlfriend in a rent-controlled apartment. His early image as a modern-day Robin Hood who gave Thanksgiving dinners to working-class neighbors and kept drug dealers out of his South Boston neighborhood was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies.
Prosecutor Brian Kelly told the jury that Bulger was a “hands-on killer” who was responsible for “murder and mayhem” in Boston for almost 30 years. In his opening statement Wednesday, Kelly offered chilling details of some of the 19 killings Bulger is charged in, saying the mob boss strangled two 26-year-old women and asked one man if he wanted a bullet in the head after an attempt to strangle the man with a rope failed. Kelly said Bulger was a longtime FBI informant who provided information on the New England Mafia, his gang’s rivals.
A retired state police colonel told jurors Thursday that Bulger and his gang demanded payment from bookmakers, drug dealers and others who wanted to do business in the area they controlled. Failure to pay up could mean being run out of business, “taking a beating” or being killed, retired state police Col. Thomas Foley told the jury.
Two bookies who testified Friday told the jury they were forced to pay monthly “rent” or “tribute” payments to Bulger and his gang if they wanted to stay in business. James Katz said if bookies did not pay Bulger’s gang, they could “wind up in the hospital.” Richard O’Brien said he had been affiliated with the New England Mafia but decided to operate independently after members of the mob were arrested. He said Bulger told him during a meeting, “If you want to be in business, you’re with us.”