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Payback

Kevin Weeks was eager to cut a deal implicating longtime mentor James 'Whitey' Bulger in murder after the fugitive crime boss hung him out to dry

By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff, 1/29/2000

Long before South Boston gangster Kevin Weeks turned on his legendary boss, James "Whitey" Bulger, and led investigators to the bodies of three people believed killed by Bulger and his associates, Weeks had built a reputation as a fiercely loyal tough guy who muscled his way into Bulger's inner circle.

He honed his fighting skills early, as a youngster boxing in rings around the city. After high school, he returned to his alma mater to help keep the peace during the first turbulent years of busing.

In the fall of 1974, a few months after graduating from South Boston High, Weeks got a job at his old school as a security aide, charged with breaking up fights between warring black and white students. By the following winter, he was working as a bouncer at Triple O's on West Broadway, after a daring leap over the bar to knock out unruly patrons with a few swift punches convinced the owner that the kid hired to lug ice was tougher than he looked.

It was that fearlessness, that willingness to jump into the fray, that endeared Weeks to Bulger and ultimately propelled him to the top of Bulger's organization. For 20 years, Bulger treated Weeks like a son, grooming him as his successor.

So his betrayal is a major coup for investigators, since no one in the underworld is believed to be closer to Bulger, the notoriously remote crime boss who put his trust in Weeks.

But after Bulger skipped town in January 1995 to evade a federal racketeering indictment, Weeks was left to face the wrath of local mobsters alone, subjected to their taunts when Bulger and his sidekick Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi were outed as longtime FBI informants.

In secretly recorded conversations with Flemmi in 1998, Weeks complained that local Mafia members were showing up at the Quincy home of his estranged wife and two teenage sons looking for him. Even in Southie, Weeks complained that he was branded a "rat," treated like an outcast because of his loyalty to Bulger, now dubbed "King Rat."

"Well you know how many times I've been beat up out here?"

Weeks asked Flemmi.

"Oh yeah, a lotta times," said Flemmi, talking from the Plymouth jail where he's being held awaiting trial.

"Oh I've been beat up you know [expletive], told to get outta Southie," Weeks said.

After it became known that Bulger and Flemmi had fed the FBI information about members of their own crew, as well as their Mafia rivals, Weeks found himself constantly looking over his shoulder.

Then, faced with his own federal racketeering indictment in November, the 43-year-old Weeks - with no money for a lawyer - turned on Bulger, who's traveled around the country for five years with a girlfriend and a seemingly endless supply of cash.

Family ties

Like his mentor, Weeks grew up in a South Boston housing project and established a reputation as a skilled fighter. While Bulger was raised in the Old Harbor development, Weeks, 27 years Bulger's junior, grew up on the other side of Old Colony Avenue in the Mary Ellen McCormack development.

Born on March 21, 1956, Weeks was the second youngest of six children, three girls and three boys - including two Harvard graduates - raised by John and Peggy Weeks, both now dead.

The day after her son's arrest on Nov. 17, Peggy Weeks died after a lengthy illness. Her son had to ask a federal magistrate judge for permission to pay his final respects, which he was allowed to do - handcuffed and escorted by federal marshals - at the O'Brien Funeral Home. He wasn't allowed to attend the funeral.

John Weeks, a boxing trainer, had taught all his sons to fight. Kevin excelled at the sport.

"He was a tough kid growing up, but a real nice kid, a respectful kid, very quiet, very friendly," said Jay Hurley of South Boston, who has been friends with Weeks since high school and was an usher at his wedding. "He was a fun guy to be around and had a good sense of humor."

Said Hurley, business manager of the Ironworkers Union Local 7, "You take people how you know them and I know him as a decent guy with a lot of redeeming qualities. He was someone you could count on if you needed a friend."

One of Weeks's sisters, Patricia O'Neill, is a civilian employee for the Boston Police Department, and a brother, Jack, now a consultant, is a former political operative who was a senior adviser to the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis.

And, in the sort of coincidence common to insular Southie, one of Weeks's sisters is married to the brother of Stephen Rakes, whose newly purchased liquor store Bulger and Flemmi forcibly took over in 1984.

Weeks first crossed paths with Bulger at Triple O's, the tavern run by Bulger associate Kevin O'Neil. O'Neil, who was indicted along with Weeks in November, had to be convinced of Weeks's worth when the 18-year-old came looking for a job as a bouncer just before St. Patrick's Day in 1975.

After taking one look at the 5-foot-10ish, curly-haired teenager, O'Neil decided he wasn't bouncer material and put him to work lugging ice to bartenders.

But O'Neil was wrong about Weeks. When a fight broke out that night and brawny 6-foot-3 bouncers were wrestling with the troublemakers, Weeks jumped from behind the bar and knocked out several guys with a few punches.

Two of a kind

The brawl marked Weeks's entree into Bulger's inner circle, when O'Neil offered Weeks a full-time job as a bouncer.

Bulger hung out at Triple O's and often conducted business out of an upstairs room and soon tapped Weeks to work for him.

By the early 1980s, Weeks had supplanted O'Neil as Bulger's top lieutenant and closest confidante. Over the years, Weeks managed a number of South Boston businesses for the Bulger organization, including the D Street deli, the South Boston Liquor Mart and the Rotary Variety and Video Store.

Bookies, loansharks and drug dealers routinely dropped off "rent" payments for the Bulger organization at the deli and the variety store, often to Weeks, insulating Bulger from the transactions.

Aware that they were constantly being targeted by federal, state and local police, and concerned about "bugs," Bulger and Weeks were guarded when talking inside or on the telephone.

The pair were often seen walking around Castle Island in South Boston, even in the dead of winter, or sitting on the bleachers at Columbus Park in the late afternoons.

Weeks, according to a court affidavit, was at Bulger's side during a series of violent shakedowns throughout the 1980s, in one instance fetching a "body bag" at Bulger's request while he held a gun to the head of a local realtor.

Proving himself every bit as vicious as the boss, court papers say Weeks summoned a local bookie to a South Boston home in 1994 and forced him into the basement, where the floor was covered with plastic, a none-too-subtle signal that he didn't want blood messing up the floor.

While the bookie sat on a stool in the middle of the room under a glaring light, a gun-toting Weeks warned him that he'd be killed if he didn't pay him $50,000. He paid.

"All you ever heard about [Weeks] was that he was enforcing or hunting people down to settle a score," said a South Boston native. "With him it was intimidation and muscle."

Still, for many years Weeks shared some of Bulger's mythic status as protector of the town, one who rooted out troublemakers and kept drugs away.

City Council President James Kelly, a South Boston Democrat, who has known the Weeks family for years, described Kevin as a sort of youth counselor, the person adults turned to when their kids - or troublesome neighbors - were acting up.

"He had the same reputation as Whitey Bulger, that if you needed someone to straighten out the teenagers who were causing trouble, he'd talk to them," said Kelly.

Kelly said he knows people who have gone to Weeks, urging him to talk to their children because they suspected they were using drugs, drinking, or in with the wrong crowd.

"Kevin has talked to them and maybe there's been a few he's been able to influence and get off drugs," Kelly said.

Weeks, an avid athlete, has sponsored sports teams in South Boston and was active in the South Boston Boys and Girls Club and the South Boston Youth Hockey League. He's always been involved in sports - playing flag football for the Old Harbor Athletic Club, skiing, playing hockey, practicing martial arts.

Kelly said he often saw Weeks, the father of two sons, ages 13 and 16, at the local ice skating rink, at Pop Warner football games, and at various benefits around Southie.

"In a crowd, he would act like a gentleman," said Kelly.

Indeed, when Southie society turned out at the L Street Tavern for the black-tie Oscar party to celebrate the nomination of "Good Will Hunting" in 1998, Weeks - a regular at the bar - showed up in a tuxedo, easily mingling with the revelers.

That's a far different image than the one depicted in the federal indictment. There, he and Bulger are the neighborhood bullies out to line their own pockets. Like Bulger, Weeks is accused of making money off drugs by shaking down drug dealers in South Boston for a percentage of their profits.

And while he may have intervened to help friends and neighbors, some insist that came at a price.

"If you had a problem, they'd take care of it," said one person familiar with Weeks and Bulger. "But there was a flip side to that. Either you paid or you were indebted to them."

Beginning of the end

For five years while Bulger criss-crossed the country, and maybe the world, Weeks remained loyal, running the organization in his absence and continuing to take orders from Bulger, who used calling cards to reach him at the homes and businesses of friends.

While investigators tailed Weeks around the country hoping he'd lead them to Bulger, he never did. It turns out his road trips had a far less sinister purpose: Weeks was pursuing his passion for paintball, a fantasy version of real-life crime. Instead of bullets, participants shoot each other with balls of paint. Weeks loved it.

While Weeks's betrayal of Bulger may once have been unthinkable, those familiar with his situation say he felt trapped after his indictment. With no financial help forthcoming from Bulger's ruined organization, and facing the prospect of more charges, including murder, that could send him to prison for life, Weeks was eager to cut a deal.

"Why should he have any loyalty to them?" asked a source familiar with the investigation. "He knows that Stevie and Whitey were both informants. What if Whitey gets caught and decides that he's going to roll on everybody? Weeks learned a ton from Whitey and this is probably the way Whitey would have played it."

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 1/29/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.



 KEY FIGURES
Whitey Bulger
Stephen Flemmi
Frank Salemme
Kevin Weeks
John Martorano
John Connolly
John Morris

 FEATURES
Photo gallery
Whitey sightings
Books on Whitey
Whitey chats
Whitey links on the Web

 GLOBE SPECIAL REPORTS
1 9 8 8
The Bulger mystique
A look at Boston's famous brothers, William and Whitey.

1 9 9 5
The story of Whitey's fall
How investigators brought down the elusive criminal.

1 9 9 8
Whitey & the FBI
The relationship between Bulger and Boston's law men.

1 9 9 8
Whitey's life on the run
The fugitive mobster's relentless travels across the country.

Complete list of reports

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