James 'Whitey' Bulger: Notorious US mob boss found guilty
- 12 August 2013
- From the section US & Canada
James "Whitey" Bulger, one of America's most notorious underworld bosses, has been convicted of nearly a dozen murders, racketeering and conspiracy.
The 83-year-old terrorised an Irish-Catholic neighbourhood of Boston in the 1970s and '80s as leader of the Winter Hill Gang.
He betrayed no emotion upon hearing the verdict after a two-month trial.
Bulger went on the run in 1994 and was finally captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011.
He was said to have been an inspiration for the gangster played by Jack Nicholson in Oscar-winning 2006 film The Departed.
The trial in Boston heard gruesome evidence that Bulger had participated in 19 murders, but he was found guilty on Monday of a role in only 11 of them.
Convicted of 31 of the 32 total criminal counts against him, Bulger faces a life prison sentence. But analysts have pointed out that even a short sentence would likely see the stooped, grey-haired ex-gangster die in prison.
Bulger refused to testify at the trial, calling the proceedings "a sham" because he said he had been promised immunity by a now-deceased prosecutor in return for protection from other mobsters.
No 'Robin Hood'
During the trial, the federal jury of 12 heard testimony from 72 witnesses and saw 840 exhibits
Prosecutors said Bulger had been a longtime FBI informant protected by corrupt agents, who turned a blind eye to the Winter Hill Gang's activities in return for information on the Italian Mafia.
Bulger's victims included anyone he saw as a threat, prosecutors said, including innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"This is not some Robin Hood story about a guy who kept angel dust and heroin out of Southie," prosecutor Fred Wyshak told the jury in closing arguments, referring to the South Boston neighbourhood that was his gang's turf.
Bulger's former associates testified against him, saying he threatened anyone who could expose his crime syndicate, and threatened others with pistols and machine guns to force them to hand over cash.
Among other things, he was accused of strangling two women with his bare hands, shooting two chained men in the head after interrogating them for hours, and opening fire on two others as they left a South Boston restaurant.
One witness, real estate developer Richard Buccheri, said the mob boss threatened to kill him and his family if he did not pay $200,000 (£130,000), sticking a shotgun in Mr Buccheri's mouth.
The defence did not contest accusations Bulger ran a criminal enterprise, but strongly denied he killed the women and that he was "rat" - an informant against others in the criminal underworld.
'End of era'
Defence lawyers sought to portray the key witnesses, all convicted mob members, as pathological liars who were attempting to pin their own crimes on Bulger.
"Today is a day many in this city thought would never come," Massachusetts US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a press conference after the verdict, which she said marked the end of an "ugly" era in Boston's history.
"Despite the corruption, we stand here today because of the dogged work of honest and dedicated members of law enforcement."
Bulger was featured on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list for 16 years until he was found living in California with his girlfriend Catherine Greig.
She was sentenced in 2012 to eight years in prison for helping Bulger evade the law.
He fled Boston in 1994 after a retired FBI agent tipped him off that he was about to be indicted.
His origins in a Boston housing estate, his career in the criminal underworld, and his years on the run from the law captivated the city, especially as his younger brother William rose to become president of the state Senate.
Bulger's disappearance was a major embarrassment for the FBI, especially after it was alleged in court that he and his gang paid off several FBI agents and state and Boston police officers, offering cash and cases of fine wine in exchange for information on search warrants and wiretaps.