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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora