James ‘Whitey’ Bulger was sentenced last Thursday to life in prison by a federal judge, who told the mobster that the scope and depravity of his crimes was hard to fathom.
The life sentence was the end of a trial that provided many details of a decades long life of crime by the big crime boss of Boston. The trial came more than 15 years after he committed many of the crimes. Bulger was a fugitive for 16 years until he was arrested in Santa Monica in 2011.
Bulger was wearing an orange jumpsuit and had on glasses that obscured his famous bushy eyebrows. He stared at the judge and frowned. It was a big change from the day before, when victims’ families spoke to him. They asked him to look at them but he looked down. Judge Denise Casper sentenced the mobster to life in prison, plus another life sentence, plus five years. And he has to pay $20 million in restitution.
Later in the week, his lawyers stated that Bulger is going to appeal the conviction, His lead attorney, Hank Brennan, stated that there are several important issues that need to be uncovered in the appeal. There is more evidence and witnesses that need to be public. Brennan stated that the city of Boston and victims’ families were not content with the outcome of the trial, because many people that are responsible for some of the crimes were not held accountable.
Casper, the judge on the case, was very direct when speaking with Bulger before she gave him his sentence. She was the judge on the case for the entire two months of testimony, that included details of Bulger and his thugs strangling women, pulling out teeth, handcuffing people to chairs and shooting them in the head. They would bury bodies in basements and then did them up. They also shot men that had no connection to his criminal businesses.
The judge said the details of the human suffering that Bulger and his associates inflicted was hard to listen to and watch. She said during the trial that she often wished they were watching a movie, but what he did was real, as the families of the victims know too well.
The day before, 12 family members read impact statements about how Bulger’s crimes had affected them.
Testimony in the trial had details of the mobster’s racketeering and extortion crimes, and his actions that brought illegal drugs into South Boston.
The judge said his crimes were made even worse because they were entirely motivated by money.
Bulger did not testify during the trial; he said that the trial was a sham and he would not participate. The judge stated that he can call the trial whatever he wants, but that he received a fair trial.
Many people in Boston were upset about the trial, and how Bulger got a motorcade to the court house, saying it would play to his big ego. Some citizens wanted him to just be tried on gun charges, which would have taken only a few days. Another Bulger lawyer, JW Carney, stated that Bulger offered to plead guilty to all charges if they would be lenient on his girlfriend.
Among his many crimes, Bulger was convicted for racketeering, which was charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was largely designed to fight the Mafia. The original intent of the RICO law was to successfully prosecute top members of Mafia organizations. Prosecutors at one time were able to convict low ranking mobsters for crimes, but had difficulty prosecuting the top Mafia men.
Today, to successfully prosecute racketeering, prosecutors must show that the mobster’s organization worked in a criminal enterprise, must have engaged in ongoing illegal affairs, with at least two crimes committed. And, the Mafia group must have had an effect on interstate commerce, which is normally met by almost any type of economic activity.