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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs