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Monthly Archives: January 2013
§25: Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years: Clearing The Decks For Stevie Flemmi’s Arrival Home
The remarkable thing about some of the books written about Whitey is how little attention is paid to critical things. We sort of jump from Stevie Flemmi being on the lam to Stevie being a member of the Winter Hill Gang. This important time that will shape all future events is given scant attention.
One aspect that has been ignored is that Stevie had pending against him two very serious charges that were the occasion of his flight: the murder of William Bennett that was pending in Suffolk County and the attempted murder of Attorney John Fitzgerald when he blew up his car in Middlesex County. Stevie was not going to come back unless he had an iron clad guarantee that these cases would disappear. You’d think that’d be hard to give him considering the seriousness of the charges.
Frank Salemme who also was charged with blowing up Fitzgerald’s car had been arrested in New York City in November 1972 by FBI Agent John Connolly. Flemmi was tried on those charge in June 1973, the main witness against him being Robert Daddeico. Until Salemme’s case was over nothing could be done to help Stevie.
According to Stevie’s testimony he was happy in Montreal and reluctant to return to Boston. He has it that he was convinced by FBI Agent Rico to come back. Rico told him the groundwork had been laid with the Middlesex and Suffolk DA’s offices so that he would be bailed on the charges of murder and blowing up Attorney John Fitzgerald’s car and eventually get them dismissed. Rico was no longer in Boston but he and his partner FBI Agent Dennis Condon had cultivated a good friendship with Middlesex DA John Droney and Suffolk DA Garrett Byrne. At that time the FBI was revered among Irish Catholic politicians and these agents would have the ear of these DAs.
We’re now at the point where we are entering the second half of The Learning Years the period called the Full Gang Years. This begins in May 1974 when Stevie Flemmi comes back from Montreal. It lasts until the time of the Race Fixing Indictment in the spring of 1979. That indictment named Howie Winter, John Martarano, Jimmy Martorano, Joe McDonald and Jimmy Sims. Howie and Jimmy Martorano stayed around for the trial, were convicted, and incarcerated. Howie was already doing time on a state charge. John and Joe took off for Florida; Jimmy Sims had not been seen around for a while was believed to be dead.
The result would be that Whitey and Stevie Flemmi would be the only two of the seven Winter Hill Gang leaders remaining standing. They would take over the running of the gang. The Boss Years would begin and continue until the mid-Nineties.
Whitey is charged with six murders that occurred during The Full Gang period all within a little more than a two-year period. The first in October 1974 is of Jimmy Sousa, then in November 1974 Paulie McGonagle, June 1975 Eddie Connors, November 1975 Tommy King and Buddy Leonard, and finally in December 1976 Richard Castucci. He’d not be charged with a murder again until almost four and a half years later in 1981 during The Boss Years. Of the six murders, three do not involve a beef with the Winter Hill Gang, they are South Boston gangsters, two clearly have the Winter Hill stamp on them and one may or may not be their murder. I’ll talk more of the murders later.
Right now there are two areas to delve into: figuring out how Whitey and Stevie became bosom buddies; and, figuring out how they became conjoined as FBI informants.
Ah, politics. You know I avoid them in this blog but I can’t help noticing that Congressman Lynch from South Boston who just got reelected has decided to take a shot at the seat being vacated by Senator Kerry, according to some reports I’ve seen lately. I guess he is going to go up against another Congressman Edward Markey who is in a similar position. I love the courage of these men secure in one job which they intend to hold on to while running for an other job. I guess it’s a “public are fools” attitude since you can’t be doing the job you were just elected to as a Congressman while spending the enormous time running around soliciting votes and money for a new job.
I’m particularly bothered by Congressman Lynch going off on another quest. That is because I’m still waiting for him to tell us what is going on with the FBI. For those who are late to this blog let me quickly tell you why.
Retired FBI Agent John Connolly has been excoriated for using Whitey Bulger as an informant. The public was outraged that such a thing was happening that one of the alleged top gangsters in the area was working with the FBI. Connolly and Bulger were both from South Boston as is Lynch.
The outrage produced the criminal charges against Connolly. He was alleged to have been a renegade FBI agent using gangster Whitey as a source and protecting him. (I should say that it was well-known throughout the FBI that he was doing it so its difficult to be a renegade when the bosses approve of your actions. but we’re not suppose to know that.) Highlighting Connolly as the bad agent allowed the spotlight to stay focused on him. We were told after he was convicted that he was part of the old FBI and things had changed. But as we would learn, the FBI continued along pretty much unchanged.
The Caswell case which I wrote about yesterday points to the inability of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz to make reasonable judgments. It took about a week to try the case which had lingered in the courts for three years. Judge Judith Gail Dein took the time to visit the home of the motel owner Russ Caswell and to examine the motel and its surroundings. After hearing the evidence, she took a couple of months before she came down with her decision. She meticulously spelled out the facts and examined other cases involving forfeitures in the country to compare them to the Caswell case and to distinguish them if necessary. It took her many hours and she finally set out her reasoning in a 59 page document. She did this work because she knew that it was likely that unless she shut the door completely on the US attorney the case would drag on and be appealed.
To me it was always clear this is not the type of case you bring. You don’t take a law-abiding person’s livelihood from him without a good and substantial reason. One drug transaction a year in a motel over a 15 year period where the law pretty much requires a motel owner not to discriminate against any person who is able to pay for a room was not such a situation which should allow the government to seize his motel. Especially since there was no warning to the owner that he should be doing other than he was doing and no one had a reasonable suggestion as to how he could have done differently than he did in conducting his business other than shutting it down, which the government decided it would do.
A Whitey-Like Taking By U.S. Attorney Ortiz Stopped Cold By Judith Gail Dein: Will She Continue Her Quixotic Fight?
Sunday is a day for a little bit of good news. This comes in the form of a decision by Judge Judith Gail Dein who slapped down the outrageous actions by our US Attorney Carmen Ortiz to all but steal a motel from its owner.
This isn’t a story about the Hotel California the lovely place mentioned in song but rather about the Motel Caswell which was described by its owner, Russ Caswell as, “It’s a budget motel. You know, it’s an older place, but we do our best to keep it in good condition.”
I wrote about it a while back and again more recently in connection with the suicide of Aaron Swartz. My initial take on the Caswell case was that Carmen Ortiz was acting like Whitey Bulger and she was engaged in an attempt to steal this property from a hard-working guy. I suggested that her actions in this type of case made me question her judgment as a prosecutor. This was before I knew anything about Swartz’s prosecution.
Judge Dein’s decision reaffirmed everything I thought about the case. She pointed out that Russ Caswell had no formal education beyond Tewksbury High School. He lives with his wife of 48 years,Patricia, his 92-year-old mother-in-law, his son Jay and his wife and their 9-year-old daughter next door to the motel. Russ has one other child, a daughter Julie who has two kids. It’s a family business. Russ works there “virtually every day” (that’s seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, no vacations), his wife Patricia worked there as well until she became seriously ill, his son Jay does the maintenance work and fills in at the front desk, and his daughter Julie does the bookkeeping.
§23: Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years: A Reflection At The End Of The Pre-Flemmi Time Continued
On the city streets dealing on a daily basis year after year with the full spectrum of mankind one learns the necessary steps to survive. Fights and killings don’t occur because the FBI is telling street-wise people certain things are happening. They are everyday occurrences.
Here are two or three of the many things I’ve gotten almost jammed in on that jumped into my mind as I write. I wasn’t one of those guys out looking for trouble even though it seemed to walk the streets with me. I walked into a popular Ho Jo’s on Morrissey Boulevard to get an ice cream cone and happened to look at another guy standing by the cash register. He threw at me, “what are you looking at!” The next thing I know I’m in a fist fight. I was standing in a bar and talking about a baseball game with a couple of friends. One of the really tough psychos appeared out of the blue. He said, “what are you talking about me for. You wanna step outside.” I obviously didn’t and smothered him with a million assurances of my innocence.
I was walking down the street with a couple of friend and three guy were coming the other way. Passing by on the sidewalk I accidentally bump into one of them squeezing by. He yells at me and pulls a switch blade. Words were exchanged but eventually we talked down the situation. Cooler heads prevailed. Later one of my friends asked me, “why didn’t you take the knife from him? Weren’t you taught that in the Marines.” I smiled thinking there’s a great difference between practicing and the real thing. Better to see if what I learned would work when there was no other choice.
The end of the Pre-Flemmi Years is a good time to stop to reflect upon a shockingly erroneous belief that has come to the fore in these matters. I pause now because I suggest I’ve just clearly shown that Murderman John Martorano has played, to put it mildly, very loosely with the truth. I pointed out in my book, Don’t Embarrass The Family, and here, the obvious lies Flemmi, Salemme, Morris and Weeks have told. It’s so bad that I’ve questioned how a prosecutor can justify using them as witnesses or how we have a system that requires a jury to guess when a life-long admitted liar is telling the truth.
Our whole belief system about what happened as it involves Whitey is based upon these lies with very little independent verification. An industry has been built upon these religious-like beliefs. Books, without footnotes or support relative to the critical issues, have been written allegedly containing facts but have so much made-up stuff in them that we’re left guessing at the truth. Findings have been made by judges in the federal district court and court of appeals awarding large sums of money based on this. So many people are invested in it that suggesting they are all wrong is like telling an Orthodox Jew, Strict Muslim, Conservative Catholic, Fundamentalist Christian or anyone with hard-core beliefs she is wrong in what she believes. I know no one will change her mind but I offer this one bit of evidence for her to consider.
I’ve told how I doubt Winter Hill was involved in killing Spike O’Toole. Others were after him for years. Two months or so before he was murdered he was gunned down by others. Murderman Martorano never mentioned that nor did he have him leaving the right barroom just before his murder.
Here how Murderman described the killing. He let him have it with a grease gun. Then Joe McDonald jumped out of the car “ran up to O’Toole, stood over his body, and lifted his ski mask,” because “he wanted Spike to know that he had been killed by Winter Hill . . . and fired twice into Spike’s head.” It all sounds so Hollywood-like.
He went on that Whitey the driver saw a pedestrian approaching the car and “In the dark, Whitey reached for a gun, then he realized he didn’t have one. He settled for pointing his finger” at that person. He said later, according to Murderman, “Never again do I go on a hit without a gun.” It sounds like one of those old time comedy routines. Don’t you like the touch “in the dark” as if that somehow contributed to misunderstand as if in the daytime or a light was on he would have known he didn’t have a gun but being dark he was confused. Oh, well.
Nothing Murderman wrote made sense outside of a sensational Hollywood script. The cops said Spike O’Keefe was shot at least four times in the chest by a burst of gunfire from a nearby parked car. Perhaps when Joe McDonald was standing over the prone O’Keefe when he fired into his face he missed. More likely it never happened.
Why am I analyzing these things when you know down the line that I’m going to have Whitey involved in some of the murders that he is charged with? I suppose it’s the same reason we have in our common law tradition for giving the defendant a right to confront the witnesses against her and subject their statements to cross-examination. I’m trying to get at the truth as best I can so I can answer the question how bad was Whitey? I want to know whether the Justice Department made a deal with the truly bad guys in order to gin up a prosecution of one man who has been made into a larger than life criminal by fiction writers?
When Murderman Martorano came forward to make a deal he was motivated by one great fear. He’s admitted this. He’s in a race to get a bargain for himself before someone else offers him up as bait to the prosecutors to get his own deal. The rats are all abandoning the ship. The person Murderman said he was worried about was Flemmi. He knew Flemmi could give him up on several murders.
Murderman knew Flemmi was not a stand up guy. He knew Flemmi would fold. Flemmi never did time. Flemmi feared doing time. Flemmi was a rat since the mid-Fifties so he realized Flemmi was not a real gangster but a guy who wanted to murder people who also didn’t want to face the consequences of his actions expecting the FBI would always protect him. As I’ve written, Flemmi is the lowest of the low, lower than the belly of a snake.
§19: Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years: Spike O’Toole And The Historic Staggering Walk:
Spike O’Toole was in and out of prison. The first newspaper reference I found relating to him was on July 13, 1965, in the Boston Globe. It read that a Quincy man named John Flannery was shot and dumped from a car at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Tremont Street at 2:56 a.m. He “staggered to a nearby taxi stand and cried: “Help me. I’ve been shot. Spike O’Toole dit(sic) it.”
Dick Connolly of the Globe, another columnists with good FBI and Boston police connections wrote the next day on July 14, 1965, that “O’Toole who . . . harbored McLaughlin while the latter was among the FBI’s 10 most wanted criminals, has been marked for death since last December . . . [he was just about to be released from state prison] when he received a telegram [indicating that he’d soon get what Harold Hannon received who was found garroted and floating in Boston Harbor]” Connolly went on to write: “O’Toole . . . has not tried to hide his fear. He has conceded that he probably is number one on the current “hit parade” but he claims he does not know who is trying to eliminate him.”
Whitey is involved in none of these ongoing disputes. He’s just out of prison in 1965.
Spike was arrested at the end of September when he came back from the Cape to visit his mother at her Dorchester home. She was seriously ill. He was next mentioned on October 25, 1965, when he was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to murder by helping McLaughlin hide out.