A 78-year-old former professional gambler today described being in a car that was sprayed by bullets in a March 1973 attack in the North End, as prosecutors continued to outline the human toll of the gang allegedly led by James “Whitey” Bulger in Bulger’s trial.
“A firing squad hit us,” said Frank Capizzi, who was 38 at the time of the attack. “For two and a half minutes, about a hundred slugs hit the automobile, and it imploded.”
“It seemed like maybe a day and a half, but it was probably only a couple of minutes,” he said.
Bulger, 83, is charged in a racketeering indictment with participating in 19 murders; extorting drug dealers, bookmakers, and businessmen; money laundering; and building an illegal arsenal of guns. Prosecutors say Bulger and his gang held fearsome sway over Boston’s underworld for decades before he fled in 1995, going on the lam for 16 years and eluding a worldwide manhunt.
Capizzi’s testimony came after a series of prosecution witnesses were called to the stand Thursday to show the impact of Bulger’s alleged crimes.
Capizzi was wounded in the March 19, 1973, attack on Commercial Street in the North End. Albert Plummer, 49, of Andover was killed in the attack and Hugh “Sonny” Shields, 36, of Dorchester was wounded.
“I had been hit in the head and felt warm blood running down my neck,” Capizzi said. He said 100 bullets hit the car, and he had about 30 wounds from either, glass, metal, or bullets. One slug came to rest millimeters from his heart.
Capizzi left Boston in 1973. Asked why he left, he said, “My wife and children were living in the throat of the dragon for 40 years without any help from anyone. ... I never wanted to get killed.”
Capizzi balked under a cross-examination by defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr., who sought to portray him as a less than innocent victim.
Carney asked Capizzi if he knew there were gang wars going on in Boston at the time. “The question would be, Who didn’t know that?” Capizzi responded.
Capizzi acknowledged that he was friends with Alfred “Indian Al” Notarangeli. But when Carney asked, “How did Al make a living?” Capizzi shot back, “Ask Al.”
Carney repeated his question and Capizzi responded, “I would say he was as corrupt as the rest of them.” When Carney persisted and asked if Notarangeli made money as a bookmaker, Capizzi replied, “He probably did.”
Notarangeli is allegedly another one of the Bulger gang’s victims. He was killed in February 1974. Prosecutors say Mafia underboss Gennaro “Jerry” Angiulo enlisted Bulger’s gang to kill Notarangeli, who was the leader of a rival gang and suspected of killing one of Angiulo’s bookmakers.
Capizzi says he writes screenplays now, and paints watercolors and oil paintings. “I’ve had the good fortune to sell a few,” he said.
Actor Robert Duvall was in the courtroom this morning watching the high-profile case. Duvall is in the Boston area filming a movie called “The Judge.” He left after several hours. He declined to talk about the Bulger case.
“Just thought it was interesting. That’s all,” he said.
Other witnesses testifying today included the son of Joseph “Indian Joe” Notarangeli, Alfred Notarangeli’s brother, who was another alleged Bulger gang victim, killed in April 1973; a retired police officer who recalled coming across the scene of the slaying of alleged victim, William O’Brien, 32, of South Boston, on Morrissey Boulevard in March 1973; and a State Police firearms expert who vouched for the deadliness of the arsenal of weapons that Bulger allegedly kept, which included fully automatic machine guns and guns with silencers.
Bulger’s story has inspired books, TV shows, and movies, partly because his criminal rise paralleled the rise of his brother, William, to become one of the most powerful politicians in the state. James Bulger’s legend only grew when he was featured as one of the FBI’s 10 most wanted fugitives and when it was revealed that he had been protected during his alleged criminal rampages by the FBI, which considered him a prized informant. Bulger has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.