Will the mob boss sing?

James “Whitey” Bulger’s capture could cause a world of trouble inside the FBI.

In this courtroom sketch

In this courtroom sketch

BOSTON — James “Whitey” Bulger’s capture could cause a world of trouble inside the FBI.

The ruthless Boston crime boss who spent 16 years in hiding is said to have boasted that he corrupted six FBI agents and more than 20 police officers. If he decides to talk, some of them could rue the day he was caught.

“They are holding their breath, wondering what he could say,” said Robert Fitzpatrick, the former second-in-command of the Boston FBI office.

The 81-year-old gangster was captured Wednesday in Santa Monica, California, where he apparently had been living for most of the time he was a fugitive. He appeared Friday afternoon inside a heavily guarded federal courthouse in Boston to answer for his role in 19 murders.

Bulger, wearing jeans and a white shirt, looked tan and fit and walked with a slight hunch at back-to-back hearings on two indictments. He asked that a public defender be appointed to represent him, but the government objected, citing the $800,000 seized from his Southern California apartment and his “family resources.”

“We think he has access to more cash,” said prosecutor Brian Kelly.

Bulger, the former boss of the Winter Hill Gang, Boston’s Irish mob, embroiled the FBI in scandal after he disappeared in 1995. It turned out that Bulger had been an FBI informant for two decades, feeding the bureau information on the rival New England Mafia, and that he fled after a retired Boston FBI agent tipped him off that he was about to be indicted.

The retired agent, John Connolly Jr., was sent to prison for protecting Bulger. The FBI depicted Connolly as a rogue agent, but Bulger associates described more widespread corruption in testimony at Connolly’s trial and in lawsuits filed by the families of people allegedly killed by Bulger and his gang.

At the second hearing, Bulger took a swipe at prosecutors after Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler asked him if he could afford to pay for an attorney.

“Well, I could, if they would give me my money back,” he replied in his unmistakable Boston accent, prompting laughter in the courtroom.

Kelly implied that Bulger’s cash came from illegal activities.

“He clearly didn’t make that on a paper route on Santa Monica Boulevard,” he said.

Prosecutors asked that Bulger be held without bail, saying he is danger to the community and may try to threaten witnesses.

“He’s also, quite obviously, a risk of flight,” Kelly said.

Kelly also said Catherine Greig, Bulger’s longtime girlfriend who was arrested with him, told court officials that Bulger’s brother may be willing to assist him in posting bail.

Bulger did not ask for a detention hearing, but his lawyer said he may later make an argument that Bulger should be released on bail while awaiting trial.

The amount of money found in Bulger’s apartment confirmed a longheld belief by investigators that he kept large stashes of cash for a life on the run.

“We clearly don’t think this is his last stash,” Kelly said.

When Bulger walked into the courtroom, he saw his brother William, the former powerful leader of the state Senate, seated in the second row. Whitey Bulger smiled at him and mouthed, “Hi.” His brother smiled back.

Greig appeared in court a few minutes later on charges of harbouring a fugitive. She asked for a hearing to determine whether she can be released on bail, and one was scheduled for next week.

Kevin Weeks, Bulger’s right-hand man, said the crime lord stuffed envelopes with cash for law enforcement officers at holiday time. “He used to say that Christmas was for cops and kids,” Weeks testified.

After a series of hearings in the late 1990s, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf found that more than a dozen FBI agents had broken the law or violated FBI regulations.

Among them was Connolly’s former supervisor, John Morris, who admitted he took about $7,000 in bribes and a case of expensive wine from Bulger and henchman Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi. Morris testified under a grant of immunity.

In addition, Richard Schneiderhan, a former Massachusetts state police lieutenant, was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy for warning a Bulger associate that the FBI had wiretapped the phones of Bulger’s brothers.

Edward J. MacKenzie Jr., a former drug dealer and enforcer for Bulger, predicted that Bulger will disclose new details about FBI corruption and how agents protected him for so long.

“Whitey was no fool. He knew he would get caught. I think he’ll have more fun pulling all those skeletons out of the closet,” MacKenzie said. “I think he’ll start talking and he’ll start taking people down.”

A spokesman for the Boston FBI did not return calls seeking comment. In the past, the agency has said that a new generation of agents has replaced most or all of the agents who worked in the Boston office while Bulger was an informant.

Some law enforcement officials said they doubt Bulger will try to cut a deal with prosecutors by exposing corruption, in part because he will almost certainly be asked to reveal what contact he had with his brothers while he was a fugitive and whether they helped him in any way.

“If Bulger talks, he would have to talk about his brothers, and I can’t see that happening, said retired state police Detective Lt. Bob Long, who investigated Bulger in the 1970s and ’80s.”They are not going to take selective information from him — it’s either full and complete co-operation or nothing.“

Criminal defence attorney and former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Raymond Mansolillo said Bulger may not have any incentive to talk. “The FBI may say, ’You’re going to jail or you’re going to be killed. We’re not offering you anything,”’ said Mansolillo, who once represented New England crime figure Luigi “Baby Shacks” Manocchio.

But retired Massachusetts state police Maj. Tom Duffy, one of the lead investigators in the Bulger case, said Bulger may agree to talk if he thinks it could help his girlfriend.

“It’s very possible he’s concerned about her well-being — she was with him for 16 years and was very loyal to him,” Duffy said. “That may be a bargaining chip for the government during negotiations.”

The question of whether Bulger will be given a public defender will be decided later. A hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. He did not enter a plea.

Bulger is “looking forward to facing the charges against him,” said Peter Krupp, a lawyer assigned to represent Bulger for purposes of Friday’s hearing only.

Among the onlookers at the courthouse was Margaret Chaberek, who grew up in Bulger’s home turf of South Boston. “I’m here to see him get what he deserves,” she said.

———

Associated Press writers Johanna Kaiser, Laura Crimaldi in Providence, Rhode Island, and Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Four provinces to sign memorandum of understanding to explore small nuclear reactors

Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick sign memorandum of understanding

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2016, file photo, Chris Kempczinski, then-incoming president of McDonald’s USA, speaks during a presentation at a McDonald’s restaurant in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood. On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, McDonald’s said the company will mandate worker training to combat harassment, discrimination and violence in its restaurants worldwide starting in 2022. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
McDonald’s to mandate anti-harassment training worldwide

New standards starting in January 2022

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
FOUND: Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircrafts are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet says it will extend its temporary suspension of international sun flights to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean until June 4. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
WestJet extends temporary suspension of international sun flights until June

Customers with affected itineraries will be notified of cancellations

File photo
City of Wetaskiwin awarded $5.1 million grant for additional RCMP officers

10 Additional RCMP officers to serve the City of Wetaskiwin as a result of the grant.

In this Nov. 12, 1995, file photo, Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy looks on during the second quarter of the Bills game against the Atlanta Falcons at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bill Sikes, File
Former Alouettes head coach Marv Levy tops 2021 Canadian Football Hall of Fame class

The ‘21 class will boost the Hall of Fame’s membership to 316

Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, provides an update on health system preparations in Nova Scotia for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in Halifax on Friday, March 6, 2020. Strang says plans are in place to stage the women’s world hockey championship in the province next month with limited spectators.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Nova Scotia plans to allow limited crowds at women’s world hockey championship

All 10 teams in Halifax and Truro must participate in a 14-day quarantine

”Kim’s Convenience” cast member Andrew Phung poses in this undated handout photo. “Kim’s Convenience” has just ended but Andrew Phung is already “knee-deep in ideas and stories” for his next project, “Run the Burbs.” The Calgary-raised actor, who played comical car-rental employee Kimchee on “Kim’s,” co-created the upcoming comedy series and will star in it as a stay-at-home dad with an entrepreneur wife and two kids. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - CBC
‘Kim’s Convenience’ actor Andrew Phung on crafting his own series, ‘Run the Burbs’

‘Run the Burbs’ production could start in the summer or fall

Canisia Lubrin poses in this undated handout photo. Rising literary talent Canisia Lubrin is among the Canadian finalists for the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize. The Griffin Trust announced the three homegrown wordsmiths and four international poets on this year’s short list on Wednesday. Lubrin, who recently received the US$165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize, is nominated for “The Dyzgraphxst” (pronounced diss-graff-ist), published by McClelland and Stewart. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Anna Keenan
Rising writer Canisia Lubrin among Canadian finalists for $65K Griffin Poetry Prize

Griffin will award two winners, one international and one Canadian

A prairie fire in the Burnt Lake district. (Photo by Bert Fors via Red Deer Archives)
Michael Dawe: Fires of spring 1931 in central Alberta

Central Alberta has just come through a relatively warm and dry winter… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Opinion: Boris Johnson is to blame for what’s happening in Ireland

Twenty-three years of peace in Northern Ireland, after a sectarian war that… Continue reading

Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes, fom left, celebrate after winning women's gold medal match against Brazil's team at the Beach Volley Worldtour Major Series, in Vienna, Austria on August 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ronald Zak
Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Canada’s world champion beach volleyball duo finally getting games before Tokyo

Most Read