‘Whitey’ Bulger begins defense by calling FBI agent who wanted to shut him down as FBI informant
Attorneys for James “Whitey” Bulger today called the first witness for the defense — retired FBI agent Robert Fitzpatrick, who tried in the early 1980s to stop his agency from using Bulger as an informant.
Fitzpatrick is the author of the book “Betrayal’’ and worked for the FBI for 21 years, including a period of time as the assistant special agent in charge of the Boston FBI office. Fitzpatrick told jurors that for an FBI agent to get promotions, they would need to develop informants.
“If you don’t have an informant, you have a problem,” said Fitzpatrick, adding that an agent’s supervisors would see it as “a weakness.”
Defense attorneys sought to use Fitzpatrick’s testimony to describe the culture of corruption that permeated the FBI. Fitzpatrick said he once feared that James Greenleaf, a special agent in charge of Boston at the time, was providing leaks to informants, but he was told to “shut up” and not report it. But he did, and said he was retaliated against.
Meanwhile, nothing was done about his complaint. Fitzpatrick also said he had suspicions that the FBI’s relationship with Bulger was not up to the agency’s standards, and he recommended that the agency terminate his status as an informant. Bulger’s relationship with the FBI continued, however.
Fitzpatrick said he grew particularly concerned in the early 1980s with his failed attempts to put Edward “Brian” Halloran in a witness protection program. Halloran had been cooperating with the FBI and implicated Bulger in a murder. Fitzpatrick complained at one point to former US Attorney William Weld about his fear that Halloran was a murder target. Two days later, Halloran was killed. “My concern was that we .... didn’t act fast enough to get Halloran in a witness protection program so we could pursue our case,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitizpatrick took the stand after defense attorney J. W. Carney Jr. urged US District Court Judge Denise J. Casper to sequester jurors once they begin deliberations.
Carney, who singled out Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen in court papers, called media coverage by columnists “hyperbolic” and “prejudicial.”
Carney told Casper that federal court rules allow for sequester in high-profile, well publicized cases. The Bulger trial is one of them, he said.
But Assistant US Attorney Brian Kelly told Casper that there was no need for the judge to issue the order. He added that jurors were not warned they could be sequestered and to do so now would not be fair.
“We think it’s not necessary,’’ he said, adding that “the 11th hour request... [is] not fair.”
Carney last week said his client was undecided on whether he will take the stand in his own defense, but the possibility that Bulger may finally speak apparently led some members of the public to do what they could to be in the courtroom for that moment — some began lining up at 5 a.m. today to score one of 10 seats for the public in the Bulger courtroom.
Prosecutors rested their case last week after 30 days of testimony from 63 witnesses.
The defense plans to call about 15 witnesses, and the case could go to the jury by the end of the week.
Bulger is charged in a sweeping federal racketeering indictment that alleges he participated in 19 murders in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as extortion, money laundering, and stockpiled weapons while overseeing a criminal organization that rivaled the Mafia — and while working as an informant for the FBI.
Bulger has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is being held without bail.
Mobile users unable to see the video, click here.(Globe columnist Kevin Cullen contributed to this report. ) Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.