The Justice Department and the FBI have been unable to locate any documents that support James “Whitey” Bulger’s claim that he was authorized to commit crimes, including murder, according to court filings submitted by the government today.
Bulger, 83, claims that former federal prosecutor Jeremiah T. O’Sullivan, who died in 2009, verbally promised him lifetime immunity, beginning decades ago, though he has yet to provide specifics, including the date he says it was granted.
But in an affidavit filed today, a Justice Department official who supervised O’Sullivan during much of the time that O’Sullivan was head of the New England Organized Crime Strike Force, said O’Sullivan never discussed giving Bulger immunity, and would not have had the authority to grant it on his own.
US District Judge Richard G. Stearns is currently weighing Bulger’s request to present his immunity claim to jurors when he goes to trial in June in a sweeping federal racketeering case charging him with participating in 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s. Prosecutors have argued there’s no merit to the claim and urged the judge to decide the issue prior to trial.
Bulger has taken the puzzling position that he was not an FBI informant but, at the same time, he was granted immunity. His attorney has declined to elaborate on why Bulger would be given immunity if he wasn’t an informant, saying Bulger will make his case at trial.
Prosecutors wrote in their submission today that Bulger, who was an FBI informant from 1975 to 1990 according to the FBI, has an informant file containing over 700 pages of reports.
“Substantively, Bulger’s claim – that he was never an FBI informant, but still had an unlimited, legally-binding license to kill – is both strange and unsubstantiated,” prosecutors wrote.
Bulger’s longtime FBI handler, John J. Connolly Jr., was convicted of warning Bulger to flee shortly before Bulger’s 1995 federal racketeering indictment. The gangster, who was one of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted, was finally captured in June 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had lived in the same rent-controlled apartment for 15 years.