James “Whitey” Bulger, the feared Boston mob boss who became one of the nation’s most-wanted fugitives, was convicted Monday in a string of 11 killings and other gangland crimes, many of them committed while he was said to be an FBI informant. (Read the full verdict here)
Bulger, 83, showed no reaction upon hearing the verdict, which brought to a close a case that not only transfixed the city with its grisly violence but exposed corruption inside the Boston FBI and an overly cozy relationship between the bureau and its underworld snitches.
Bulger was charged primarily with racketeering, a catchall offense that listed 33 criminal acts – among them, 19 murders that he allegedly helped orchestrate or carried out himself during the 1970s and ’80s while he led the Winter Hill Gang, Boston’s ruthless Irish mob. The racketeering charge also included acts of extortion, money-laundering and drug dealing.
The jury had to find he committed only two of those acts to convict him of racketeering. After 4 days of deliberations, it decided he took part in 11 of those murders, along with nearly all of the other crimes.
Bulger could get life in prison. But given his age, even a modest term could amount to a life sentence for the slightly stooped, white-bearded Bulger.
- Asma Khalid, reporter for WBUR in Boston who has been covering the Bulger trial. She tweets @asmamk.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW. And just minutes ago, the jury deliberating the fate of notorious Boston organized crime leader James "Whitey" Bulger read their verdict - guilty of racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering, extortion, as well as 11 out of 19 murders. WBUR's Asma Khalid was in the courtroom. Asma, 11 out of 19, that means that there were family members sitting there who did not get the verdict they wanted?
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: That's right. And one of them in particular is the murder of Debra Davis of which the jury said that they had no finding. That means that they could not reach a consensus on whether or not Bulger had in fact murdered Debra Davis.
YOUNG: Yeah. His right-hand man, Stephen Flemmi, said that Whitey Bulger was the one who had actually strangled Debbie Davis. Of course, the jury would have to take his word. We've had her brother Steven Davis on the program. He has said how excruciating this has been the way decades. She was 26...
YOUNG: ...years old. She was Flemmi's girlfriend. What was his reaction?
KHALID: You know, Steve Davis, I wasn't able to see his initial reaction. I'm assuming that we'll get some of that later on in the afternoon. Steve Davis is someone who has been loyally attending court. I just had a conversation with him actually just earlier this morning, and he seemed to be in good spirits. He has been here literally almost every day just to watch and hear what evidence was brought up against Whitey Bulger. So I can imagine that he is extremely disappointed not to have some sense of closure today.
YOUNG: Well, we know that so many other - the family members were there in the courtroom. You made the distinction the Debbie Davis accusation was the only one that had no finding, meaning, as you said, they couldn't agree. The jury agreed that some of the murder charges were proved. Others, they agreed were not proved. But take us why there - what else was some of the decisions of the jury?
KHALID: Yeah. I think what's most fascinating actually about the jury, you know, we had about 32 and a half hours of deliberations. I mean that's a substantial time for the jury to debate, and it seems like they really did do their due diligence. Earlier this morning, we spent about an hour in the courtroom with the judge answering a very specific question about whether or not other names were listed on the indictment, you know, if they felt that Bulger was involved or if someone had already previously been found guilty, did that automatically mean that Bulger was also guilty?
And there was a lot of thought, you know, into what exactly that meant and what the jury was thinking back in the jury room. You know, did they think that perhaps Bulger was a co-conspirator that in some way he aided and abetted the crime even if he wasn't necessarily the principal actor pulling the trigger in some of these murders. I think what's really fascinating that when the verdict that we saw was that there did seem to be in the specific charges unanimous consent that that Bulger was guilty.
The only count - the only charge - I'm sorry - that Bulger was not found guilty of was count four, an extortion charge of a bookmaker. The rest, they seemed to say that, yes, you know, Bulger had extorted people. He did illegally possess guns. He laundered money. There was some discrepancy, as you mentioned, in the murders, but it's important to remember that in order to find Bulger guilty of racketeering, only two of those 33 racketeering acts had to be proven, and the murders were part of that. The murders were one or - sorry - 19 of those 33 acts.
YOUNG: Yeah. Well, we've been following this all on Twitter because, of course, it's a closed federal courtroom. So is it really possible that when he did speak, he said that they could take his money if they wanted, but please let him keep his Stanley Cup ring?
KHALID: That's right. Yeah. There was a waiver that was filed with federal court this morning in which he explicitly said that. I was actually just reading that a little while earlier. He said that, you know, they can take the money. They can take jewelry. And in fact, I think that it said the parties have agreed to exclude a Stanley Cup ring. That was it.
YOUNG: I can't imagine being the family of his murder victims hearing that. WBUR's Asma Khalid from the federal courthouse in South Boston, the verdict in on Whitey Bulger, 11 out of 19 murder charges. Asma, thanks so much.
KHALID: Thank you, Robin.
YOUNG: We'll take a break. Be right back. HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.