News / USA

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

FILE - Former mob boss and fugitive James
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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More