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OPINION

Read all about it: The vicious record of Whitey Bulger and his protectors

By David Nyhan, Globe Columnist, 6/07/2000

The myth portrayed Whitey Bulger the two-fisted wiseguy, streetwise, politically connected, always flouting the law and fixing his way out of it, South Boston's own Robin Hood.

They got the hood part right. But the 70-year-old gangster unmasked in a new book about his deceptions emerges as a vicious, heartless extorter, the despoiler of the very neighborhood whose values he claimed to epitomize, a broker of drugs and guns, a threatener of children, who preyed on the weak and weak-minded wherever he found them, including inside the FBI and the US attorney's office.

The book is "Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI and a Devil's Deal" (Public Affairs Press), by my Globe colleagues Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill, two diligent excavators of the local criminal scene. Already into its second printing, it is flying out of Boston bookstores.

After digesting the sad and seamy 381-page account of braggadocio, balderdash, and betrayal, I put it down feeling that the title might have been "It Takes One to Catch One," whether one is a thief or a murderer. Because some of the catchers come off almost as bad as the catchees in this chronicle of criminality.

A Boston police official who suspected for years that the South Boston mob's political and FBI connections were protecting dangerous criminals said these revelations "go to the very heart of government."

What nonfiction writers do is capture, compress, and sculpt complicated and interlocking tales into a single narrative. The stunner in this volume is the weight of the crimes committed by two FBI informants - Bulger, known as "Jim" to his intimates, and Stevie Flemmi - with the connivance of a number of FBI agents, most notably John Connolly, a Bulger acolyte from the old Southie. Several murders followed.

For those of us who never immersed ourselves in the 17,000 pages of testimony unearthed by US District Court Judge Mark Wolf, dwelt upon his 661-page summary, or tracked the various hearings, depositions, and hundreds of newspaper accounts of Bulger's Irish gang, the book assembles between two covers several lifetimes of criminality and coverups.

For the good guys who were trying to do the right thing, the FBI colleagues who were led astray, the State Police detectives whose painstaking surveillances were betrayed, the Drug Enforcement agents and Boston cops whose tip-sharing was squandered or round-filed or misused by Bulger's protectors in the Bureau, "Black Mass" finally squares the account.

Former FBI supervisor John Morris, who met with Bulger and Flemmi maybe 20 times after being drawn into their orbit by former agent Connolly, took his first step down the corrupt path by taking $1,000 from Bulger to fly his FBI secretary to a romantic assignation. Then Connolly got Morris in deeper.

Morris: "Connolly called me and said, `I have something for you from these guys. Why don't you come over and pick it up?' I went over; I picked it up. It was a case of wine. On the way out he said, `Be careful with it; there's something in the bottom for you.' So I took the case of wine . . . there was an envelope on the bottom that contained $1,000 in it."

For less than $10,000 in bribes, Morris, an agent with great accomplishments in prosecuting the Angiulo family's criminal enterprises, destroyed his career and reputation. He's confessed, been given immunity, and awaits testifying if Bulger is ever captured alive. Connolly disputes Morris's testimony.

Lehr and O'Neill scanned thousands of pages of court transcripts, checked wiretap logs against court testimony, and interviewed all who would talk. It's all stitched together. The weight of detail, with all the quotations and the mountain of evidence, amounts to a massive indictment of Connolly, Morris, and FBI superiors who let them turn a rogue operation into a major league perversion of justice.

Nor does it spare the Justice Department. Jeremiah O'Sullivan, a former assistant US attorney, is faulted for looking the other way on some crimes, protecting Whitey from an FBI review, and denying entrance to the witness protection program for a Bulger enemy, Brian Halloran, who was murdered five days later.

O'Sullivan also cleared Whitey Bulger's brother, former Senate president William Bulger, of criminal involvement in a case involving a $500,000 fee from Boston's largest landlord, Harold Brown.

City Council President James Kelly also figures in the book, tangled up in the case of a realtor threatened with death by Whitey for not paying a $50,000 protection fee. A former Whitey associate, Kevin Weeks, apparently led police to the Dorchester graves of John McIntyre, Deborah Hussey, and safecracker Bucky Barrett, all three tied to Bulger's criminal enterprise.

This is the Southie version of "The Sopranos," unmasking Bulger, Flemmi, Connolly, and Morris as betraying those to whom they'd professed allegiance.

There are some heroes: federal prosecutor Fred Wyshak and some allies who pressed the cases his predecessors ignored; Judge Mark Wolf, "who was willing to go where no court has ever gone" in unmasking FBI corruption, in the words of author Lehr; and honest cops like State Police Detective Bob Long and former Quincy police official Dick Bergeron.

Connolly faces racketeering and other charges, and Wolf found that 18 FBI agents broke laws or violated policies in this tangled affair. And the book obliterates the myth of Whitey as the standup Southie guy.

This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 6/07/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.



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

 FEATURES
Photo gallery
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 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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