CNN’s presentation of “Whitey – United States v. James J. Bulger” ran for two hours last night. For those who know nothing or a little bit about Whitey it gave them a decent glimpse into his life; for those who have been following the saga closely it offered a few tidbits that made the ordeal of sitting through the commercials somewhat bearable.
I was put off by the way it presented the Department of Justice (DOJ). The thrust was that there is something deeply wrong in it. The proofs offered were the actions of the FBI agents and not that of the DOJ attorneys. I know the FBI is part of the DOJ. But it operates independently in investigating matters and dealing with informants. What it did with respect to Whitey the DOJ had little knowledge about. The show blurred that distinction.
We learned about the feelings of the relatives of the victims: the ubiquitous Steve Davis, the unfortunate Steve Rakes; the unlucky Donohue family and the angry David Wheeler. It covered the details of some of the people murdered by Whitey with some gruesome photographs. It presented parts of the testimony of Kevin Weeks, John Martorano, Steven Flemmi and corrupt FBI agent John Morris. But it jumped from subject to subject, each one separated by a commercial, that would have been disconcerting to the viewers and chased many over to the football games.
When I wrote my last post: “Whitey The Ordinary — Just Another Hoodlum Who Didn’t Grow Up” I had no idea of the hiatus that would occur between that post on September 16, 2013 and now. The reasons for the silence are a special assignment I undertook that totally kept me away from the computer and any writing; and on top of that a joyful out-of-state addition to the family.
These events necessitated that I put distance between myself and the subject matter of this blog. Perhaps my post noting the ordinariness of Whitey was an auspicious stepping off point. As time passed and distance widened I began to see more clearly the basic banality of Whitey Bulger the man. Much more interesting than the person are the events that conspired together to take such a commonplace criminal and elevated him to the point he became some sort of criminal extraordinaire. Those are the events I hope to focus my efforts on explaining.
Trying to write anything else about Whitey himself is a waste of time. No man, who has in reality done so little of any merit, has ever had so much trivia written about him than Whitey. What is there about the man that is worth emulating or admiring? Absolutely nothing. He is a debased man devoid of any redeeming qualities.
The way you wear your hat.
The way you sip your tea.
The memory of all that –
No, no – they can’t take that away from me.
. . . The way you haunt my dream.
. . . The way you hold your knife
. . . The way you’ve changed my life.
No, no – they can’t take that away from me.
I wrote about seeing Whitey come into the courtroom. He walks in a determined manner not like an 83 year older but someone much young as if he were on a mission. I’ve also written that he pictures himself as commander-in-chief. His insouciance reflected in his walk and manner suggested despite his two years in solitary-type confinement he hasn’t lost his idea of himself as in charge or his swagger. His hair was cut in a nice Parris Island Marine boot camp first day issue style.
Judge Wolf in his 1999 661 page findings speaking of the 1974/1975 time frame said the FBI recognized Whitey had been deeply involved in a violent gang war. Just prior to this he wrote the written record concerning this matter is sparse. Sparse? It’s non existent.
During the hearings in front of him the only gang war that had evidence about was about the Irish Gang War. That happened while Whitey was in prison. It is unusual for a judge to pull such an assertion out of thin air and attribute something to the FBI which it had no knowledge about. It’s an early indication of his confusing the Whitey of 1999, the time of the decision, with the Whitey of 1975.
Judge Wolf doesn’t end there. As I noted yesterday, he went on to say that when Whitey was recruited he was “widely regarded” as being brutally violent. This is also unusual for two reasons. First Whitey’s reputation had hardly gone beyond the confines of South Boston at that time; and, he had before him practically no evidence to support this statement.
This is a preview of §39: Judge Wolf’s Fragile Foundation: [Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years]. Read the whole post here
The last time I wrote about Whitey’s life was on March 26. We’ve read about his release from prison, his involvement in the South Boston dustup between the Mullens and Killeens and how what was happening in South Boston was small time compared to the interactions between the rest of organized crime in the Eastern Massachusetts area.
The real power was in the hands of the North End or “In Town” which was the Italian Mafia. Outside of that most of the fighters in the Irish Gang War of the 1960s had gone to see their Maker leaving a small core group of Irish gangsters in Somerville just north of Boston under the leadership of Howie Winter and a Mafia-connected Roxbury Gang that had fought in the Irish War on the side of Winter’s group.
The Winter group and Roxbury group united and opened up a garage called Marshall Motors in Somerville located in the Winter Hill section of that city. The garage served as a front for their gangster business. The location gave the gang its name: Winter Hill gang.
This is a preview of §38: Judge Wolf’s Twisting of The Facts: [Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years]. Read the whole post here
I have to pause as I sometimes do in my review of Whitey’s life. I do this because a recent comment had me wondering about the influence of lawyers on this case. I was answering a comment by Norwood who suggested that the gangsters should have figured out Stevie Flemmi was an informant.
I responded that the gangsters didn’t figure this out because they aren’t usually too bright. That’s why when I was a prosecutor we were able to catch them. I like to tell the story of the time we were doing a wiretap on some bookies, The bettor started to go beyond placing a bet by entering into a discussion about some of the others in the operation. The bookie running the office replied: “be careful, the telephone may be [and then he spelled out the letters] T A P P E D” as if the cops wouldn’t figure out what he was spelling. Or in another instance, when we were listening to a couple of hoodlums talk and they began to whisper to each other thinking by lowering their voices they wouldn’t be heard.
I’ve suggested what remains is Stevie has to out himself to Whitey as an FBI informant. The prior stories by media types make no sense because they have Whitey bringing Stevie along. Even were those correct, they don’t tell how it happened. They use such terms as “blended him in” showing their desire to avoid facing the issue and their misunderstanding of the roles played by the individuals in these affairs. The voluble John Connolly spins a tale of recruiting Whitey to fight against the Mafia which makes no sense. Whitey knew nothing about the Mafia. He might just as well have had recruited the Boston Strangler when it came to getting information against the Mafia.
It couldn’t have been easy for Stevie Flemmi to disclose to Whitey his deal with the FBI. How do you tell another guy in a gang of murderous thugs that you are an FBI informant and that you want him to come along with you and expect he won’t dime you out? Yet, Flemmi had to do this. He had to let Whitey know. He couldn’t risk Whitey finding out in another manner.
Stevie Flemmi was on board as an informant. Whitey wasn’t. To understand why Stevie needs to bring Whitey in it is good to take a look at how both men were being perceived by the Winter Hill Gang. John Martorano gave us an insight into their relationship with the others in that gang.
What he tells us corroborates my take that they were outsiders who jelled with each other and were standoffish with the others. Martorano tells that when Stevie came back from Montreal he “seemed different, more serious. And preoccupied — sometimes he’d be sitting in a room with the others, and they’d even notice that he was just staring off into space, and hadn’t said a word for a half hour. Yet he and Whitey somehow seemed to hit it off. They were the two Hill guys who were actually from Boston, the city itself.”
John Martorano went on a few sentences later, “Whitey and Stevie had more in common than their propensity for sudden violence. Unlike everyone else in the gang, member and associates alike, they barely drank. They didn’t smoke. Stevie was into . . . health food. . . . [Stevie] hated shaking hands with anyone. Whitey was the same way.”
This is a preview of §33: The Coming Together Conditions: [Re-Examining Whitey Bulger: The Learning Years:]. Read the whole post here