BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Gangster James “Whitey” Bulger will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Judge Denise Casper sentenced Bulger to two life sentences plus five years Thursday in U.S. District Court in South Boston.
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Bulger, 84, was convicted in a string of murders in the 1970s and ’80s, as well as extortion, money-laundering and weapons charges in August.
Before sentencing, Casper read every victim’s name out loud as Bulger stared stone-faced at the judge.
Railing against Bulger, Casper delivered a blistering address, telling Bulger it took “no business acumen” to point a rifle in someone’s face and demand things of them.
Casper said Thursday that during points of the trial, she wished the court was watching a movie. She called the crimes even more heinous because they were carried out over money.
“Each of these lives came to an unceremonious end at your hands or at the hands of others at your direction,” Casper said.
Bulger stood and folded his hands in front of him, expressionless, as the judge imposed his sentence. Relatives of the victims remained quiet.
Bulger, the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s sinister character in the 2006 movie “The Departed,” was seen for years as a Robin Hood figure who bought Thanksgiving turkeys for working-class South Boston residents and kept hard drugs out of the neighborhood. But that image was shattered when authorities started digging up bodies more than a decade ago.
“Much ink has been spilled on you, Mr. Bulger,” Casper said.” You have become a face of this city. That is regrettable.”
Casper ordered $19.5 million to be paid in restitution to the families of Bulger’s victims.
“Even if jury didn’t find you participated in murders, you were convicted of the ‘overarching conspiracy’ counts,” Casper said.
After being handed over to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Casper told Bulger he may appeal the conviction and sentence in the next 14 days.
When asked if he understood, Bulger whispered: “Yes.”
By Thursday evening, prosecutors in Florida had lodged a detainer against Bulger.
Immediately after the sentencing, lawyers for both sides huddled at sidebar. Some reports indicated Bulger planned to do a jailhouse interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Shortly before 11 a.m., Bulger was escorted out of the courtroom without even a glance at his brother Jackie, who was sitting nearby.
Jackie Bulger ignored reporters as he left court. Bulger’s attorney, Jay Carney, was asked if his client had any remorse.
“It’d be an unusual human being who did not have any regrets about anything in his life. Jim looks back on things and thinks about things he could have done differently. Anything further would have to come from him,” Carney said.
Federal prosecutors had asked a judge to sentence him to two consecutive life terms, plus five years. Bulger’s lawyers declined to recommend a sentence, saying Bulger believes his trial was a “sham.”
“Call it what you want, but in my humble opinion you received the fair trial that any defendant deserves,” Casper said before sentencing.
During the sentencing, many families of the victims looked on silently. There were no outbursts or tears as Bulger’s sentence was finally handed down.
On Wednesday, a dozen relatives of murder victims gave impact statements in court, calling Bulger a “terrorist,” and a “punk.” Bulger sat stone-faced and refused to look at them or to make a statement of his own.
The son of a man who was gunned down by Bulger in 1974 addressed Bulger as “Satan” and described how his father, a member of a rival gang, first disappeared in 1974 but wasn’t found until decades later when his body was discovered in a watery grave.
Sean McGonagle was 11 when his father, Paul, disappeared. He said Bulger called his family’s house the following year and said, “Your father won’t be coming home for Christmas.” When he asked, “Who’s this?” Bulger responded, “Santa Claus,” McGonagle said.
“You’re a domestic terrorist fueled by greed and sickening evil,” McGonagle said.
Several family members blasted corrupt FBI agents for protecting Bulger for years while he was working simultaneously as a crime boss and an FBI informant who ratted out the rival New England Mafia and other crime groups.
David Wheeler, the son of a Tulsa, Okla., businessman who was shot between the eyes by a hit man for Bulger’s gang, delivered a blistering condemnation of both the FBI and the Justice Department, which successfully argued to have his family’s wrongful death lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that it was filed too late.
“They are as responsible for that murder as the defendant here sitting before you,” Wheeler said.
Former Boston FBI agent John Connolly Jr. — Bulger’s handler when he was an informant — was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of tipping the gangster off ahead of an indictment. After receiving the tip in 1994, Bulger fled Boston and remained a fugitive for more than 16 years until he was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011. Connolly was later convicted of second-degree murder in Florida for leaking information to Bulger that led to the slaying of a gambling executive.
Bulger claimed during his trial that a now-deceased federal prosecutor had given him immunity to commit crimes in exchange for Bulger’s offer to protect him from the Mafia. The judge refused to allow Bulger to use that claim as a defense to his long list of crimes, including murders.
A jury convicted Bulger in 11 out of the 19 killings he was charged with participating in during the 1970s and ’80s but acquitted him of seven killings and issued a “no finding” in the murder of 26-year-old Debra Davis, the girlfriend of his former partner, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi.
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