June 24, 2018
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Line between ‘cops and robbers’ blurs in Bulger trial

U.S. Marshals Service | Reuters
U.S. Marshals Service | Reuters
James "Whitey" Bulger
By Richard Valdmanis, Reuters

BOSTON — Some of accused mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s closest allies should have been his biggest enemies — the FBI agents who cooked him dinner and tipped him off about investigations into his Winter Hill crime gang in the 1970s and 1980s.

Jurors in Bulger’s murder and racketeering trial will get a second day of testimony on Friday from former FBI supervisor John Morris, who has described a cozy relationship among he, another corrupt agent and the gangsters they were meant to be keeping off the streets.

Once one of the most feared men in Boston, Bulger, 83, is charged with killing or ordering the murders of 19 people as head of Boston’s violent Winter Hill Gang, which ran extortion and gambling rackets for decades.

The trial, which began June 12, has given the jury a glimpse of an era when machine-gun toting mobsters shot associates who talked too much and buried bodies under bridges in a bloody struggle for control of the criminal underworld.

But it also has shown a dark side of the FBI during that period, when some former agents are alleged to have traded information with Bulger and his gang to help them elude arrest and murder “rats” who spoke to police.

Morris said on Thursday that he and fellow ex-FBI agent John Connolly — who cultivated Bulger as an informant — would invite Bulger and his associate Steven “The Rifleman” Flemmi to dinner, where they would trade information and gifts.

Connolly apparently got so rich on kickbacks that he began wearing jewelry and bought a boat and a second home on Cape Cod, Morris said, adding that he too had accepted at least $5,000 in cash directly from Bulger and provided tips.

“I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do. I felt awful about everything,” he said.

Morris, who now works as a part-time wine consultant, was granted immunity from prosecution in 1998 in exchange for his testimony in hearings about FBI misconduct.

His description of Bulger as an FBI informant on Thursday caused Bulger to swear at him and call him a liar.

Bulger has adamantly denied providing any information to law enforcement officials, contending that he paid them for tips, but offered none of his own. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He faces possible life in prison if convicted.

Bulger’s story has fascinated Boston for decades and inspired the 2006 Academy Award-winning Martin Scorsese film, “The Departed,” in which Jack Nicholson played a character loosely based on Bulger.

He fled Boston after a 1994 tip from Connolly that authorities were preparing to arrest him. He evaded capture for 16 years, even though his name was prominent on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list of fugitives.

Connolly is serving a 40-year prison term for murder and racketeering.

Bulger’s attorneys have spent much of the past few days attacking the reliability of the FBI’s 700-page informant file on him, which they contend was fabricated by Connolly to provide a cover for his frequent meetings with the gang boss.


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