Kerry urges Senate to pay $8.5 million to families of Whitey Bulger victims

US Senator John Kerry filed legislation today seeking nearly $8.5 million in compensation for the families of two men who were allegedly killed by notorious gangster and long-time FBI informant James “Whitey’’ Bulger.

The bills, which mirror identical legislation filed in the House of Representatives last month, seek compensation for the families of Michael Donahue and Edward “Brian’’ Halloran, who were allegedly gunned down by Bulger and an unidentified accomplice on the South Boston waterfront in 1982.

A judge found the government liable for the slayings because of the FBI’s mishandling of Bulger and awarded nearly $6.4 million to the Donahue family and about $2.1 million to Halloran’s widow in 2009. But a federal appeals court reversed the ruling earlier this year after finding that the families should have known earlier that the FBI was responsible, yet waited too late to file their suits.

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“We can’t place a time limit on these families’ grief or allow arbitrary restrictions to deny them the court-ordered damages they’re due,’’ Kerry said in a news release announcing the legislation. “It’s our job to make this right.’’

Donahue’s son, Tom, 32, of Dorchester, said he was grateful for the support of Kerry, as well as that of US Representatives William R. Keating and Stephen F. Lynch, who filed similar legislation.

“Obviously, it’s being taken seriously,’’ Donahue said. “We were just hoping it wouldn’t die.’’

Michael Donahue, a 32-year-old Dorchester truck driver, was giving Halloran, a 41-year-old Bulger associate, a ride home from a bar on Boston’s waterfront on May 11, 1982 when Bulger and an unidentified associate allegedly opened fire, killing them.

Bulger’s longtime sidekick, Stephen “The Rifleman’’ Flemmi, testified during court proceedings that former FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr., warned him and Bulger that Halloran was cooperating with the FBI and had implicated the gangsters in an earlier slaying.

Flemmi said the tip prompted Bulger to kill Halloran and that Donahue was an innocent bystander.

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