BOSTON — Convicted mobster James “Whitey” Bulger will face the families of his victims in court on Wednesday for the start of a sentencing hearing that will probably end with the ageing former Boston gang leader headed to jail for the rest of his life.
U.S. District Judge Denise Casper set two days for Bulger’s sentencing, the closing chapter in a case that saw the 84-year-old convicted in August of murdering 11 people following a two-month trial rife with bloody tales of gun-toting mobsters mowing down rivals and unlucky bystanders.
Casper will allow some of the wives and children of the victims of Bulger’s brutal Winter Hill gang, which reigned in Boston’s underworld in the 1970s and ’80s, to speak out on the toll that the murders took on the families.
U.S. prosecutors have asked Casper to sentence Bulger to two life terms plus five years after his conviction on 31 criminal counts in a sprawling racketeering indictment that charged him with extortion and drug-dealing, in addition to murder.
Bulger’s trial was raw, broken by outbursts in which former gangmates-turned-prosecution witnesses swore at the man who lived on the lam for 16 years, many of them on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list.
Bulger’s story has captivated the city’s residents for years. He rose from a South Boston housing project to become the most feared person in the city at the same time as his brother, William, became the powerful president of the state senate.
Helped by a relationship with a corrupt FBI agent who shared Bulger’s Irish ancestry and was willing to turn a blind eye to his crimes in exchange for information on the Italian-American Mafia, Bulger ruled violently over Boston’s criminal world.
In 1994, on a tip that arrest was imminent, he fled the city. Agents finally caught up with him in June 2011, living in a Santa Monica, California, apartment with his girlfriend, a cache of weapons and $800,000 in cash.
It was unclear whether Bulger would take the stand during the sentencing proceedings. During his trial, he declined to testify, telling the judge he regarded the proceedings as “a sham.”