News / USA

    Mobster 'Whitey' Bulger Given Life Sentence for 'Unfathomable' Crimes

    FILE - Former mob boss and fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, California, June 22, 2011.
    FILE - Former mob boss and fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, California, June 22, 2011.
    Reuters
    Bringing an end to Boston's longest-running crime saga, a federal judge sentenced former mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger to spend the rest of his life in prison on Thursday, calling his crimes “almost unfathomable.”
     
    Bulger, 84, sat stoically as U.S. District Judge Denise Casper recounted the crimes he was convicted of, including 11 murders, extortion and drug dealing while he ran Boston's brutal Winter Hill crime gang in the 1970s and '80s.
     
    “The scope, the callousness, the depravity of your crimes are almost unfathomable,” Casper said before imposing two consecutive life sentences, plus five years.
     
    Bulger terrorized the city for decades before fleeing in late 1994 on a tip that his arrest was imminent. He spent 16 years on the run before he was caught. His life inspired Martin Scorsese's 2006 Academy Award-winning film “The Departed”.
     
    “The testimony of human suffering that you and your associates inflicted on others was at times agonizing to hear and painful to watch,” Casper told Bulger in Boston's waterfront federal courthouse, located just blocks from where some of Bulger's killings took place.
     
    “At times during the trial I wished that we were watching a movie, that what we were hearing was not real,” she said.
     
    Bulger stood silently, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit over a long-sleeved T-shirt, as his sentence was read. He had declined to participate in the two-day sentencing hearing, saying through attorneys that he viewed the proceeding as “a sham.”
     
    “It took a lot of discipline for him not to react emotionally to some of the things that were said, and he's proud he was able to conduct himself in that fashion,” Bulger’s attorney, J.W. Carney, told reporters after the hearing.
     
    Bulger's two-month trial was raw, broken by outbursts in which the accused and his former gangmates turned prosecution witnesses swore at each other. In August, a jury found Bulger guilty on 31 of 32 criminal charges, including 11 of the 19 murders prosecutors had accused him of committing.
     
    He spoke only once during Thursday's hearing, replying “yes” when Casper asked if he understood he had a right to appeal the verdict.
     
    Defense attorney Henry Brennan said Bulger would appeal the conviction.
     
    Casper also ordered Bulger to pay $19.5 million in restitution to his victims.
     
    Law enforcement agents recovered $800,000 hidden in the walls of the Santa Monica, California apartment where they arrested Bulger in June 2011. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said on Thursday that authorities would continue to search for other assets Bulger criminally acquired to distribute among his victims.
     
    ‘Going to Die in Prison’
     
    Some family members of Bulger's victims said they were satisfied with the sentence.
     
    “That old bastard is finally going to be in prison, he's going to die in prison,” said Thomas Donahue, whose father Michael was among Bulger's victims. “Today is the first day that we can finally get on the road for closure, and it's a good feeling. It's bittersweet, but it's a good feeling,” Donahue continued.
     
    Tom Angeli, whose father, Al Notorangeli, was among the eight people Bulger was accused of killing but whose deaths the jury did not hold him responsible for, voiced a similar sentiment.
     
    “We knew right from the beginning, when this trial started, that this man wasn't going to see the light of day again. It's about accountability, that's all I ever wanted, is accountability, and I think we've gotten it,” Angeli said.
     
    A Black Mark on the FBI   
     
    Bulger's case is widely considered a black mark on the reputation of the FBI. The Irish-American gangster ruled violently over Boston's criminal underworld, helped by a relationship with a corrupt FBI agent who shared his ancestry and was willing to turn a blind eye to his crimes in exchange for information on the Italian-American Mafia.
     
    “The actions of a small percentage of law enforcement many years ago caused some people to lose faith and confidence in us,” said Vincent Lisi, the FBI's special agent in charge in Boston. “Our job now is to make sure we can regain the faith and confidence of those people,” he continued.
     
    Bulger denied ever serving as an FBI informant, and had wanted to argue at trial that he could not be prosecuted because he had been promised immunity by federal prosecutors. A federal judge blocked Bulger's attorneys from making that case in court, saying no immunity deal would allow an informant to commit murder.
     
    Carney said Bulger had received prison letters from hundreds of people and responded to all of them.
     
    “Jim looks back on things and thinks about things he might have done differently,” he added, without elaborating.
     
    Bulger rose from a South Boston housing project to become the most feared person in the city at the same time that his brother, William, became the powerful president of the state senate. His story has captivated Boston for years.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.