Bulger defense grills star witness “The Rifleman” over alleged abuse of stepdaughter

Admitted killer Stephen 'The Rifleman' Flemmi takes the witness stand in James 'Whitey' Bulger's murder and racketeering trial.
Jane Collins | REUTERS
Admitted killer Stephen 'The Rifleman' Flemmi takes the witness stand in James 'Whitey' Bulger's murder and racketeering trial. Buy Photo
Posted July 23, 2013, at 7:50 a.m.
Last modified July 23, 2013, at 9:28 a.m.

BOSTON — Star witness Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi has spent hours in lurid description of how he and his old partner James “Whitey” Bulger tortured victims, yanked out teeth with dental tools and buried bodies in secret graves.

But Flemmi stammered and hesitated Monday. Bulger’s lawyers were asking the questions on cross examination and they opened with the January 1985 murder of 26-year old Deborah Hussey — a stepdaughter Flemmi is accused of having sexually abused.

“You say abusing sexually,” Flemmi snapped at a question from defense lawyer Hank Brennan. “Would you clarify that? Are you saying intercourse? That was consensual.”

Brennan clarified by accusing Flemmi of having “inflicted” himself on Hussey.

“That was a consensual relationship,” Flemmi shot back. “On just two occasions. Moments of weakness. And I regretted it all my life.”

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper apparently was one of the few people in the courtroom watching the clock at that point in the questioning, because she interrupted and adjourned for the day.

Brennan will likely resume Tuesday where he left off — which was an all-out attack on Flemmi’s credibility. Brennan had begun to imply that Flemmi’s evasiveness about his behavior with Hussey raises questions about whether he should be believed when describing slayings he said he carried out with Bulger.

Flemmi answer about a life of regret over his behavior with Hussey was similar to one of his answers Friday, when he testified about the murder of another young woman, Debra Davis, who was a 17-year-old jewelry store clerk when he initiated a long-term romantic relationship.

The prosecutors trying the complex racketeering case against Bulger contend that Bulger and Flemmi killed Davis and Hussey because the two young woman had learned too much about the gangsters’ operations through their relationships with Flemmi.

For most of the day Monday, Flemmi’s second full day of direct examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak elicited answers from Flemmi that confirmed accounts by earlier witnesses of the diverse and wide-ranging criminal enterprise Flemmi and Bulger are accused of operating from the 1970s though the 1990s through their Winter Hill gang.

Flemmi, who met Bulger almost daily, described bribing FBI agents, notably former agent John Connolly. He confirmed earlier accounts of how the gang used information provided by Connolly to kill witnesses, including those who could link the gang to its attempted takeover of World Jai Alai, in the 1970s a major component of the U.S. pari-mutuel industry.

At one point, Flemmi described how he and Bulger killed John McIntyre, a fishing boat crewman. Flemmi testified that the gangsters had learned from Connolly that McIntyre had implicated them in the import of 40 tons of marijuana and the export of 7 tons of guns to the Irish Republican Army.

Flemmi said he watched as Bulger tried to strangle McIntyre in the cellar of a rented South Boston house with a thick piece of rope. McIntyre was choking and gagging, but wasn’t dying, Flemmi said.

“He couldn’t do the job with the rope,” Flemmi testified. “So he released the rope and said, ‘Do you want one in the head?’ ”

After recovering himself, Flemmi said, McIntyre replied, “Yes, please.”

A couple of years earlier Flemmi said the two had killed safe cracker Arthur “Bucky” Barrett in the same house, under similar circumstances. Flemmi said he became angry because Bulger unexpectedly shot Barrett in the head while Flemmi was in the line of fire.

“I said, ‘You could have shot me,’ ” Flemmi testified.

Wyshak asked for Bulger’s response.

“He made some asinine statement,” Flemmi testified

Flemmi’s tone changed noticeably when Brennan began asking the questions and it was clear the subject would be the nature of his relationship with Hussy.

“It is hard for you to accept the fact that you strangled someone who sat on your lap when she was a baby?” Brennan demanded of Flemmi

“I didn’t strangle her,” Flemmi shot back.

“Did she call you daddy?” Brennan asked

“She was a young girl,” Flemmi answered. “I was there. She thought I was her daddy.”

Flemmi married in the 1950s and had two children with his wife, one in 1956 and a second in 1958. Brennan said, in the course of his questioning, that Flemmi began a relationship with Deborah Hussey’s mother, Marion, not long after the birth of his second child. Deborah was 4 years old or so at the time, Brennan said.

When questioned by the prosecution, Flemmi said he and Marion Hussey had three children of their own and they lived as a family with Deborah.

Flemmi was asked by the prosecution whether he had sexual relations with Deborah Hussey.

“Not intercourse,” Flemmi said. “No.”

Flemmi blurted out at another point, when questioned by Brennan, that he and Hussey engaged in oral sex twice.

He implied it took place sometime after his return to Massachusetts from Montreal, where he had fled in the late 1960s to avoid prosecution for setting a car bomb. He said he learned upon his return that Deborah Hussey had become involved in drug use and other reckless behavior. When she got in trouble with the law or other criminals, he said she used his name and Bulger’s to get out.

“When I come back, lifestyles were a little different,” Flemmi testified. “Her lifestyle was totally different. She was doing drugs, she was living with a boyfriend and was a problem with her mother.”

He said Bulger began pressing him to agree to kill Deborah Hussey.

“He wanted to kill her,” Flemmi testified. “I said, ‘Why don’t we just send her off?’ I kept sending her off but she kept coming back. I agreed, reluctantly.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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