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 dozens of other gangland crimes, many of them committed while he was said to be an FBI informant.
Bulger, 83, stood silently and showed no reaction to 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, which 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.
After 4½ days of deliberations, the federal jury decided he took part in 11 of those murders, along with nearly all the other crimes on the list, including acts of extortion, money-laundering and drug dealing. He was also found guilty of 30 other offenses, including possession of machine guns.
Bulger could get life in prison at sentencing Nov. 13. But given his age, even a modest term could amount to a life sentence for the slightly stooped, white-bearded Bulger.
As court broke up, Bulger turned to his relatives and gave them a thumbs-up. A woman in the gallery taunted him as he was led away, apparently imitating machine-gun fire as she yelled: “Rat-a-tat-tat, Whitey!”
Outside the courtroom, relatives of the victims hugged each other, the prosecutors and even defense attorneys.
“Today is a day that many in this city thought would never come,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. “This day of reckoning has been a long time in coming.” She added: “We hope that we stand here today to mark the end of an era that was very ugly in Boston’s history.”
Bulger skipped town in 1994 after being tipped off – by a retired FBI agent, John Connolly, it turned out – that he was about to be indicted.
He spent 16 years on the run and was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list before he was finally captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had been living in a rent-controlled apartment near the beach with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig. She was sentenced to eight years in prison for helping Bulger.
His disappearance proved a major embarrassment to the FBI when it came out at court hearings and trials that Bulger had been an informant from 1975 to 1990, feeding the bureau information on the rival New England Mafia and members of his own gang while he continued to kill and intimidate.