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Category Archives: Whitey
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.
It gave a good amount of time to the issue of whether Whitey was an informant. We were treated to being able to overhear conversations between Whitey and his lawyer J.W. Carney who discussed two of the major issues that come up in the Whitey saga: whether he was an informant and how did he get his alleged immunity. The highlight for me was listening to Whitey.
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 only matter of interest that remain is how such a low life came to occupy such a position of prominence. Could it only have happened because of the unique circumstances in Boston? That is a subject worth exploring. But to spend any more time on Whitey the person is of little value.
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.
That suggested something to me but what really hammered home the message was the way he dressed for court. He had a black pullover long sleeve jersey tucked into his blue jeans held up by a cloth-type belt. They wouldn’t let him wear his belt with the Alcatraz buckle. I didn’t see them but he wore white sneakers according to Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post who gave a very insightful view of the proceedings.
I have to assume this hairdo and get up is Whitey’s idea of how he wants to look. I think it is a bad idea but it tells us a great deal about what is going on his mind. He’s sending a message out to the world in the words of another Frank Sinatra song: “I did it my way.”
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.
Judge Wolf wrote he came to that conclusion from “Morris’s actions.” He has all these witnesses testifying in front of him for month after month and he is limited to inferring his conclusion not from something someone said or what was contained in a document but from someone’s actions. The person he chooses is the vile and corrupt FBI agent John Morris who admitted when he told the Boston Globe Whitey was an informant he was hoping Whitey would get murdered.
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.
The Mullen/Killeen battle put Whitey at risk. The Mullens had gained the ascendency in that matter after a handful of them gunned down Whitey’s sidekick Billy O’Sullivan on Savin Hill Avenue as he ran toward the Woods. Whitey sought the protection of the Winter Hill Gang by approaching John Martorano one of the Roxbury gang.
A shaky peace was arranged between the Mullens and Whitey who was pretty much all that was left of the Killeens. The terms of the peace was that Whitey would split the Killeen’s illegal income with the Mullens 50/50. Neither party was really happy with less than 100%.
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.
After saying that the criminals aren’t bright, upon reflection I realized that for these criminals to get the deals they had been given they must have suddenly increased their IQs tremendously. How did they become so smart so quickly? Then I realized it was not the gangsters who became smarter. It was that they came in contact with smart criminal defense lawyers. That’s how the deals came about.
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.
The only way to do it was to have such a strong relationship, one that pitted both of them against all others. It probably took him a year and a murder or two eliminating Whitey’s foes to build up that closeness. Both were cut from the same cloth. According to what Frank Salemme said of Stevie Flemmi, his life long friend, and what we’ve come to understand about Whitey, both were motivated by only two things in life, women and money, and as Salemme said, “not necessarily in that order.”
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.”
Stevie and Whitey had become fast friends drifting away from the others. To cement the friendship Stevie needed to bring Whitey into the FBI fold. He would have to introduce him to his new handler, John Connolly.
Stevie had been Paul Rico’s informant. When Rico left Boston in 1970 he switched over worked with Agent Dennis Condon who made his return to Boston possible by guaranteeing he’d get bail on a murder charge in Suffolk County, an assault to murder in Middlesex, and a federal fugitive from justice charge. Stevie would see the FBI’s and Condon’s magic when all of those charges were dismissed within six months of his return in May 1974.
The idea the FBI would not have had Stevie Flemmi as an informant but would chase after Connolly and hope that Connolly could bring Stevie into the fold just does not hold water. Of all people, Howie Carr recognizes this. As much as he makes Whitey the personification of all things evil, he knows the FBI had no need for him in 1975. Usually when Carr manufactures events he tries to make it close to the reality. Here’s one where he punts it far out of the park.
Knowing the FBI doesn’t need Whitey in 1975, he imagines a more convoluted theory which follows his script and that of the prosecutors that the true evil mastermind behind all of this is Whitey’s brother Billy Bulger. Carr says “they [FBI agents] didn’t need Whitey nearly as much as they needed his brother Billy. . . . [because] it was easier for a retired agent to find a new job if he knew somebody . . . [a]nd what was wrong with helping the brother of a rising legislator who might someday be in a position to put in a good word or a retiring, middle-aged agent?”
This is the type of fantasy the public has been fed continuously by Carr. It’s typical of his method of impugning the integrity of Billy Bulger and the FBI. A sensational idea that is truly laughable that FBI agents signed up a person as an informant because it was hoping his brother would achieve a position sometime in the future to help them get jobs. The tragedy is people believe Carr. It makes one doubt all history.
Keep in mind for the FBI Stevie Flemmi was the lynch-pin. It got him out of a murder, a major felony (blowing up a lawyer’s car) and a fugitive from justice charge after he got back from being on the run in May 1974. It knew he was the one with access to the Mafia. Black Mass noted: “Flemmi . . . knew all the leading [Mafia] players and was frequently in their company.” Howie Carr had it Whitey was a small timer.
Whitey’s value to the FBI paled in comparison to Stevie’s. No one would expect Whitey to help the FBI in its nationwide fight against the Mafia Recall Agent Dennis Condon tried to recruit him in May 1971 writing “he could be a very valuable source of information relative to the organized criminal activities in South Boston, Mass.” Whitey from Southie and the Boston Mafia were like the Hatfields and McCoys.
Condon’s job after Stevie returned was to pass him on to another agent since he was retiring. He held his hand and helped him break in with his new handler who happened to be Connolly. Stevie at the time is also developing his relationship with Whitey.
Black Mass has Connolly lining up Whitey by asking him to inform on the Mafia. It’s totally wrong. Connolly from Southie would know he could give him nothing on the Mafia. Black Mass later says that after Whitey became an informant, he “blended in Flemmi, and a package deal was forged.” Aside from the order being wrong, Flemmi was already the informant, the use of the term “blending in,”whatever that is supposed to mean, is pretty much an admission these authors have no idea how that would have happened.