Whitey Bulger’s 700-page FBI informant file discussed at trial; defense insists he wasn’t an informant
Even though his attorneys insist James “Whitey” Bulger was not an informant, a federal agent today provided details from the file of FBI Informant 1544 that showed Bulger gave authorities intelligence on South Boston crime figures and the Mafia, and tips in murders and other crimes that led to arrests.
Bulger, in a letter sent to a friend from jail while awaiting trial, has insisted that none of the conversations he had with the FBI ever sent anyone to jail.
James Marra, an agent with the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General, read from Bulger’s 700-page-long file, recounting for the US District Court jury what happened as a result of some of the information provided by Bulger.
Marra also testified that Bulger met with a number of FBI officials, not just disgraced agent John Connolly, blunting a defense claim that the informant file was filled with false information crafted by Connolly to hoodwink his superiors.
In one meeting with a top agency official, Bulger is quoted as saying he does not deal in drugs, and that he “personally hates anyone who does.’’ In his opening statement, however, defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr. acknowledged that his client made millions of dollars from the drug trade.
Bulger also used his position as an informant to steer law enforcement away from him, especially when it came to underworld killings. One example was the murder of Brian Halloran on May 11, 1982.
Authorities allege Bulger murdered Halloran after Bulger was tipped off by Connolly that Halloran was providing the FBI with information linking Bulger and his Winter Hill Gang to the May 27, 1981, murder of Oklahoma businessman Roger Wheeler.
According to Marra, two days after Halloran was killed, the FBI reported that Bulger told them that the “word on the street’’ was that Halloran was cooperating with law enforcement and the FBI should look to the Italian Mafia as potential killers.
Bulger also told the FBI that other members of the Boston criminal world could also have killed Halloran, including a group from Charlestown because they had been told Halloran was cooperating with State Police against them.
Bulger provided the FBI with the names of the Charlestown people he suggested were involved, Marra testified.
Also killed when Bulger allegedly murdered Halloran was 32-year-old Dorchester truck driver Michael Donahue. Donahue had agreed to give Halloran a ride home.
Bulger also told the FBI that slain Bulger rival Thomas King killed Francis “Buddy” Leonard in 1975 — when Bulger allegedly killed both men himself. Leonard was found in the trunk of King’s car. King disappeared. His body was not found until 2000 when police found it buried along the Neponset River in Quincy.
Bulger has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.
Bulger’s lawyers also argued today before US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper that Marra should not be allowed to call Bulger an informant because he had no direct knowledge himself about that.
Earlier today, Casper took under advisement a request by Bulger’s lawyers to lift a gag order and allow them to speak with the press outside the courthouse to “defend his reputation.”
In a motion filed in US District Court Sunday, Bulger’s lawyers said prosecution witnesses have spoken with reporters after testifying, newspaper columnists have ridiculed both Bulger and the defense team, and relatives of the 19 people whose murders have been blamed on Bulger have publicly denounced him.
“The overriding tenor of the media coverage has been adverse to the defendant,’’ the attorneys wrote. “The defendant has no voice in this discourse.”
“The defendant and attorneys have no intention of trying this case in the media,’’ the attorneys wrote. “They seek only to defend his reputation and provide the public with a fuller, fairer understanding of this historic trial.”
But US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office urged Casper to dismiss the request, noting that Bulger and his lawyers had tried to ban Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen and reporter Shelley Murphy from covering the trial, along with a handful of other journalists.
Bulger “now complains that he has no ‘voice’ in the media if he is not allowed to have his attorneys give press conferences outside the courtroom in the midst of trial,’’ Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly wrote. “Bulger, who has five taxpayer-funded attorneys in the courtroom helping him find his ‘voice,’ can also exercise his actual voice from the witness stand if he so chooses – subject of course to cross-examination.’’
Kelly also wrote that the 18 jurors hearing the case — 12 deliberating jurors, plus six alternates — are warned daily not to pay attention to media coverage.
Bulger, 83, is charged in a racketeering indictment with participating in 19 killings; extorting drug dealers, bookmakers, and businessmen; money laundering; and building an illegal arsenal of guns. He is accused of running a sprawling criminal enterprise from 1972 to 2000, first as part of the Somerville-based Winter Hill gang and later setting up headquarters in his native South Boston.
Bulger was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., two years ago after more than 16 years on the run.Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia. Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph. John R. Ellement can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.