Prosecutors play tapes of Whitey Bulger jailhouse conversations
James “Whitey” Bulger could be heard imitating a machine gun sound today as prosecutors played tapes of his jailhouse conversations in the notorious gangster’s trial in federal court in Boston.
Bulger was talking about the 1975 murder of Edward Connors, whom Bulger and his right-hand man, Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi allegedly shot while he stood in a phone booth on Morrissey Boulevard.
Speaking to his nephew and niece, the children of William M. Bulger, the former president of the Massachusetts Senate, James Bulger said in an Oct. 13, 2012 recording that he had been mentioned as a suspect in the murder. “The guy in the phone booth. ... [Imitation of machine gun sound.] ... Somebody threw my name in the mix.”
“Right,” said Bulger’s nephew, William Bulger Jr. “As usual.”
“Yeah,” said James Bulger, making another gunfire sound. “But anyways, that is what happened.”
Bulger did not admit to being the shooter in the conversation, which was recorded at the Plymouth County jail when the visitors came to see him. The visitors were separated from him by a glass partition and used a telephone to talk with him.
It was the first time that Bulger’s voice has been heard in conversation in the trial.
After the proceedings, Connors’s widow, Evelyn, said outside the courtroom that listening to the testimony was horrific.
“It was like it was a joke to him. It was like it was nothing,” she said.
The recording was introduced by Ken Brady, an investigator from the Plymouth County sheriff’s office.
Connors, 42, was a Dorchester tavern owner. He was allegedly gunned down because he had information on the murder of James O’Toole, a rival of Flemmi’s.
John Martorano, one of Bulger’s former associates, testified that Bulger and Flemmi lured Connors to a phone booth and shot him. They allegedly said, “He’s gone,” when they returned from the shooting, Martorano said.
In another recording, on Dec. 11, 2012, this time with his other brother, John “Jackie” Bulger, former clerk magistrate of Boston Juvenile Court, James Bulger spoke of pointing a shotgun at kids who went by his liquor store in South Boston decades ago.
“They’re getting ready to stick the joint up, so I picked up a shotgun and I’m aimin’ it at them. And the guy looked up and, ‘Oh,’” Bulger said, breaking into laughter.
“See you later,” interjects John Bulger.
“And I put one in the chamber,” James Bulger said. “One went this way, one went that way. ... We were lucky they didn’t try to do nothing.”
At the defendant’s table, Bulger, now 83, could be seen smiling.
John Bulger was sentenced to six months in jail for obstruction of justice and perjury for lying about Bulger’s assets while he was a fugitive.
Earlier today, Connor’s daughter, Karen Smith of Maine, emotionally told jurors of the last time she saw her father.
It was June 1975. They had dinner that night. Later, he received a phone call that they both answered at the same time. Her father left the home.
“I asked if I could go with him,” she said. He told her no.
Later, that night, she was awakened by a man in a suit who brought her to a grandparent’s home. She was told her father died.
She did not attend the funeral. “I was too young,” she said. “I was 7 at the time.”
Bulger, 83, faces a sweeping federal racketeering indictment charging him, among other things, with playing a role in 19 murders during his decades-long reign of terror in Boston’s underworld. His legend grew when he eluded a worldwide manhunt for 16 years before his capture in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
During Bulger’s alleged rise in the crime world, his brother William ascended to become one of the most powerful politicians in the state as president of the state Senate. The James Bulger saga has inspired numerous books, TV shows, and movies.Kevin Cullen and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.