In South Boston Monday, there was relief, but little surprise, as word came down that James J. “Whitey” Bulger had been convicted in a racketeering case and found responsible for 11 murders. The people of the neighborhood didn’t need a jury to tell them that.
“He did so many things, and there were so many counts against him, you knew he was going to be found guilty of something,” said Bobby Grubb, 56, who claimed he knew Bulger well. As Grubb waited for a bus at Broadway Station, he was standing across the street from the site of Triple O’s, the bar that was a notorious hangout for Bulger and his crew. It’s now a sushi bar, across the street from a brand new Starbucks.
Bulger’s conviction may be a symbolic end to the “old Southie,” a capstone to an era when the community was known more for its shadiness than its sushi. But the guilty verdict, for many who lived through Bulger’s reign, was merely a formality.
“The Whitey era ended a long time ago,” said Eunice Farrell, 65, of Dorchester, as she walked around Castle Island, another favorite hangout of Bulger and his crew. “Thank goodness they found him guilty. When I was a kid, he was like a hero sort of. There were a lot of people that bought into the idea that he was keeping things in line in Southie. And when he first started out, maybe he kept things in line, but he was a narcissist, and it went to his head. He was no hero. He was a criminal.”
While there was no surprise that Bulger was found guilty of racketeering, many were disappointed that the jury had failed to convict him on all 19 murders alleged in the indictment.
“I don’t think this is closure because he wasn’t convicted on all the charges,” Tammy Hingston, a South Boston native, said as she picked her son up from sailing lessons at Castle Island. “It will never feel over for some people.”
Those who had been following the trial closely said the jury had a tall order, sifting through months of testimony and a host of charges. “That would have been a tough jury to be on,” David Welz, 76, of Newton, said as he sat in the sun at Castle Island. “And the prosecution was relying on the testimony of three convicted murderers. That’s a tough thing to hang a case on.”
But if there was one resounding cry from the people in South Boston, it was that the entire trial charade was a huge waste of time and money, and gave Bulger the attention he always craved.
“I was hoping that they found him dead,” said one South Boston woman who refused to give her name. “A trial was too good for him.”
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