At 83, James “Whitey” Bulger doesn’t have much to look forward to, except prison walls. For 16 years, however, the reputed head of the Boston Winter Hill Gang managed to evade law enforcement and, for the last few years, was enjoying life in the sunshine of Santa Monica, California, where he lived with his girlfriend Catherine Grieg.
In 2011, he was discovered and since then, he’s been behind bars and on trial. Recently he was found guilty on 31 of 32 counts, including racketeering and 11 counts of murder, according to CNN. Other charges for which he was found guilty include drug dealing, extortion, money laundering and weapons charges. He faces a maximum sentence of life plus 30 years.
By anyone’s account, he is likely to spend his final days in prison. However, even that does not make up for the crimes he committed as head of the Winter Hill mob. According to Carmen Ortiz, the US attorney trying the case on the day Whitey Bulger was convicted: “So many people’s lives were so terribly harmed by the criminal actions of Bulger and his crew. And today’s conviction does not alter that harm, and it doesn’t lessen it.”
While Whitey Bulger had been linked to the deaths of at least 19 people (two of them women), and likely more, in this trial he was charged with the deaths of 11, with seven not attributed to him and one inconclusive. For the daughter of the slain Francis “Buddy” Leonard, that was a bitter pill to swallow. According to CNN, Connie Leonard declared, “Thirty-eight years ago when my father died, we always knew who killed him. We still know who killed him, and we still can’t get any justice.”
For another trial attendee, who long accused Whitey Bulger of being a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant, the whipsaw message to Bulger was simple: “Rat-a-tat, Whitey” yelled the spectator after the guilty verdict, according to NBC News.
Trial and evidence
After seven weeks of testimony about the life and crimes of James Bulger (including loan sharking, bookmaking and drug trafficking, as well as slew of other crimes, in Boston’s Irish mob from 1970 to 1994), the jury of eight men and four women took five days to deliberate Bulger’s fate. They returned with a guilty count on all of the crimes except for the extortion of Ticket Broker Kevin Hayes.
Bulger’s life was the stuff of movie-making (it is said that Jack Nicholson modeled his character in “The Departed” on Bulger), but to his victims, it was anything but. For years, he lived on the lam, after a crooked FBI agent warned Bulger of upcoming racketeering charges in 1994.
The man who ruled South Boston’s criminal activity was in the wind for years following that tip-off. When Whitey Bulger was found in California, he had a cache full of guns in his apartment, as well as more than $800,000 in cash (largely in $100 bills) hidden in a wall. Hiding in plain sight and living under the alias of Charlie Gasko when discovered, James Bulger declared his trial “a sham” and was “pleased” for those watching the trial to discover how corrupt the US government is, according to Bulger’s attorney notes CNN.
While Bulger’s girlfriend was sentenced to eight years in prison for harboring a fugitive and identity fraud, James Bulger’s sentencing will take place in November 2013, although he intends to appeal.
Said one of Bulger’s attorneys, Hank Brennan, as noted by NBC, “I don’t think you’ve heard the last word from James Bulger.”