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Kevin Cullen

It’s still Whitey’s world, and maneuvers keep justice a long way off

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / June 29, 2011

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Whitey Bulger walked into the courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit yesterday and averted his eyes. He never looked at the spectators.

Last Friday, when he walked into a Boston courtroom for the first time in a half-century, he scanned the audience and quickly picked out his younger brother Billy, the guy who used to be one of the most powerful politicians in Massachusetts.

But yesterday he didn’t even bother to look around. Maybe he knew Billy would be a no-show.

Billy Bulger was MIA, and who could blame him? The government wants him to pay Whitey’s legal tab, which, if yesterday was any indication, is going to be about a gazillion dollars.

This case is going to unfold in the same way Whitey is accused of disposing more than a few of his victims: slowly and torturously.

“I like him in orange,’’ said Pat Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was killed, allegedly by Whitey, in 1982. “I hope he wears that jumpsuit a long time.’’

He probably will. Bulger is not allowed to change into a suit and tie until he goes to trial, and the chances of that happening anytime soon look like slim to none.

Yesterday’s session was instructive in that regard. It was supposed to be open and shut. The government wanted to dismiss the indictment that caused Whitey to go on the lam in late 1994 in the first place.

In hindsight, those charges look almost pedestrian. It was “just’’ racketeering, shaking down bookies for rent. Whitey and Stevie Flemmi went around to all the bookies and threatened them if they didn’t cough up weekly payments. Bookies are very good with numbers, and they figured paying Whitey and Stevie hundreds a week was better than having their families pay thousands for a funeral.

But after the state cops found Johnny Martorano hiding in plain view in Florida, and Johnny traded 20 people he put in the ground for a get-out-of-jail card, there was a new indictment in 1999, charging Whitey with 19 murders. Now the feds say that’s all they want to prosecute.

Mark Wolf, the federal judge who has done as much as anyone to see that the FBI’s enabling of their rat Whitey Bulger was brought into the full light of day, sounded almost wistful as he began to say goodbye to the case he would have relished finishing.

“It looks like Mr. Bulger wanted to say something,’’ Wolf said at one point, hopefully.

Whitey shook his head. He doesn’t appear to be in any rush.

Steve Davis, whose sister was throttled to death in 1981, allegedly by Whitey, after she hinted she wanted to leave Stevie Flemmi, showed up and sat in the front row, as did Timmy Connors, whose father was killed, allegedly by Whitey, too.

Debbie Davis was 17 when she met Stevie, and she was 26 when she was strangled, and, by his own admission, Flemmi just stood there and watched.

Steve Davis couldn’t bring himself to be in the courtroom last Friday, but yesterday he stared at the man he believes stilled the heart of his beautiful sister.

“He’s a rat,’’ Davis said, and that is not just alleged, it is fact: Whitey Bulger traded everybody else to the FBI so he could stay on the street.

But truth, like peace, comes dropping slow.

“We don’t have time,’’ said Tommy Donahue, who was 8 years old when his father was riddled with a machine gun a few football fields away from the courthouse where this will unfold with all the urgency of a cricket match. “We’ve got to move this along.’’

His impatience is understandable. But, as usual, Whitey holds all the cards. This will go as fast as he wants.

It’s Whitey’s World. We just live in it.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com.