He was the crime lord who cultivated an image of really being a good guy despite the killings, extortion and drug-dealing. He was the Robin Hood-like fugitive, with almost mystical powers of hiding during the 16 years on the lam that earned him a prominent spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. He was glorified in movies and books and was even viewed by some during his trial as an icon of a romantic bygone era.
As James “Whitey” Bulger awaits sentencing next week, prosecutors on Thursday called the 84-year-old a man of “no redeeming qualities” who deserves to be given two consecutive life prison terms, plus five years.
“There are no mitigating factors, and defendant Bulger has no redeeming qualities which would justify any sentence below the one called for by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the applicable case law and statutes,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed in federal court in Boston.
“Bulger is one of the most violent and despicable criminals in Boston history,” prosecutors wrote. “Having now been convicted of 31 felonies … Bulger richly deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail,” they said.
In addition to asking that Bulger end his life behind bars, prosecutors are asking the judge to order that he pay restitution to the families of 19 murder victims. The federal jury in August convicted him of racketeering counts, including his involvement in 11 killings. One of those killed was a young girl who was strangled.
District Court Judge Denise J. Casper has scheduled sentencing for two days beginning Wednesday. The families of victims along with lawyers for both sides will speak and Bulger probably will learn his fate Thursday. Bulger, who did not trestify during the eight-week trial that ended in August, will have a chance to speak on his own behalf.
Responding to questions from the judge, Bulger denounced the trial as a sham and said he would not testify because he was not being allowed to present a defense based on his claim that he had received immunity for his crimes decades ago from a federal prosecutor, who is dead.
Bulger's lawyers have yet to file their recommendations on sentencing.
Bulger was the former head of the Winter Hill Gang, whose predatory violence belied its placid name. It was an Irish American criminal enterprise in Boston, where many things of value, especially its politics, was also run by Irish Americans. Their crimes include fixing horse races and even a gang war with another Irish American outfit over crime spoils.
During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Bulger as a ruthless crime boss who planned or ordered some of the killings and even bathed himself in blood by committing some in person.
“Presiding over a massive criminal enterprise, Bulger extorted dozens of individuals, flooded South Boston with cocaine, shot innocent people, strangled women, murdered his competitors, corrupted FBI agents, and then ran away and hid for 16 years when he was finally indicted,” they wrote. “While many of the victims will speak for themselves and their loved ones at the time of sentencing, the actual sentence should speak for itself: life in prison.”
Bulger's “horrific crimes and sadistic behavior … demonstrate that he deserves no mercy at the time of sentencing,” prosecutors wrote.
On June 22, 2011, Bulger was arrested outside an apartment in Santa Monica along with his long time girlfriend, Catherine Greig. She pleaded guilty in 2012 to federal charges of conspiracy to harbor a fugitive, identity fraud, and conspiracy to commit identity fraud.
She is serving an eight-year prison sentence.