Janet Uhlar’s book “Truth Be Damned” is well worth reading if you are interested in following the reaction of a juror at the Whitey Bulger trial. It also gives insight into the thinking of Whitey Bulger. Along with that, it sets out much of the Carney/Brennan idea of something being wrong in the Department of Justice especially the Boston office of the United States Attorney.
I suggest that Uhlar has been led astray by Whitey’s defense counsel. She may not have understood the need for them to put the blame on the prosecutors. The First Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that promises by FBI agents to people about immunity are not enforceable. It said that only a U.S. attorney could make those promises. Thus, to attempt to save Whitey they had to advocate for the idea that something was rotten in the Boston U.S. attorney’s office. The “corrupt U.S. attorney” argument was specious but it was the only one that Whitey’s lawyers had available to themselves.
Whitey’s defense consisted of saying “sure I’m a bad guy who committed lots of murders and other crimes but the Justice Department is worse than I am so set me free.” It was a hard sell, even beyond a Hail Mary type defense. It was like dropping a bean bag from an airplane at thirty thousand feet and hoping it lands on a catch basin outside 47 Belfort Street in Dorchester.
The gist of the defense was the U.S. Attorney William Weld, his deputies and assistants, and successors, were all working together to protect Whitey. “Look,” they point out, “there were no prosecutions of Whitey during the 1970s, 1980s or early 1990s. How could it be if the local U.S. attorneys were not part of a scheme to protect him and his buddy Steve Flemmi?”
It was an absurd defense because there was no showing that any of these individuals were aware Whitey’s criminal activities. Yet it seemed to work. It did result in the Court of Appeals removing Federal District Judge Richard Stearns from presiding over the case because he was in the U.S. Attorneys office at that time in question. In retrospect that was wrong but at the time with the hysteria sweeping through the Boston media about all things Whitey it was not unexpected that it would infect the judiciary. In fact, the way all things were handled relating to Whitey in the federal district and appeals court showed minds were made up before the cases arrived.
The assistants in the U.S. Attorney’s office do not investigate cases. They rely on the federal investigative agencies such as the FBI, the DEA, the ATF, and the like to do that. These investigative agencies bring cases to the federal prosecutors who review them and add their two cents. If no one brought a case against Whitey to the attention of these prosecutors, the lack of prosecuting Whitey does not fall on their laps, it is the fault of the investigators. If one agency is protecting Whitey from prosecution the blame falls on it and not the prosecutors. There was no showing anything relating to Whitey was brought to any U.S. attorney other than the head of the Organized Crime Strike Force Jeremiah O’Sullivan which was back in 1979.
There is one incident where the FBI assistant special agent in charge in Boston, Robert Fitzpatrick, said he went to Bill Weld to complain about a decision being made by O’Sullivan in refusing to let Brian Halloran into the Witness Protection Program. Within days of doing that Halloran had been gunned down according to witnesses by Whitey, Weeks and Nee on the South Boston Waterfront.Even had that not happened, it is doubtful Weld would have interfered with an O’Sullivan decision.
Aside from that, there is also a problem with what Fitzpatrick stated because he testified for the Carney/Brennan defense during Whitey’s trial. He later pleaded guilty to having perjured himself with some of his testimony. As long time readers of this blog will recall I had lots of problems with the statements contained in Fitzpatrick’s book some of which I knew were plainly wrong.
The Whitey mania that swept Boston through the irresponsible media and subsequent books, everyone wanted in like the Klondike Gold Rush, was similar to the Fells Acre Day care mania. Dorothy Rabinowitz aptly described it as: “The accusations against the Amiraults might well rank as the most astounding ever to be credited in an American courtroom, but for the fact that roughly the same charges were brought by eager prosecutors chasing a similar headline—making cases all across the country in the 1980s.”
Massachusetts has something in the drinking water that causes the people to lose perspective and quickly join in a lynching mob without second thought. It is the state after all that also brought us the Salem Witch Trials.