Judging Lies in the Whitey Bulger Saga: Part One of Two.

IMG_1918How do you tell if a person is lying?  If you met a stranger and engaged in a conversation with her could you tell whether she was lying or not? Have you ever believed what you were told and then found out it was a lie? When you hear a politician making assertions do you know if she really believes what she is saying? Do we have any fool proof system that tells us when a person is lying or not?

In putting together my thoughts on the Whitey saga, I have to decide how I am to go about deciding where I believe the truth lies. There are more lies in the saga than pre-ordered iPhone 6s. All criminals lie. It is second nature to them. They don’t even know they are lying. Take John Martorano, he tells us he is a good man and thinks we believe him. The foundation of this saga is built on lies. Most of what we know comes from the mouths of criminals.

Is there any place to turn for the truth? What about the FBI. It plays a big role in this subject. But when we turn to it we see Retired Supervisor John Morris who testifies he lied about this, that and the other thing. Leave him aside, what about the FBI records? It has what it calls 302s which are suppose to be statements of what a person said to an agent. We find they too are full of lies so much so that a judge refused to be interviewed by the FBI unless he could review what the agents would write down what he had said. A prosecutor who worked closely with the FBI said they put in there whatever they want. I’ve seen one filed by an agent who had no idea about the office where I was a prosecutor maligning it.

Even the 209s that are supposed to contain the statements from informants are filled with lies. First, informants being criminals lie. Then they are just passing on scuttlebutt or other things they picked up on the street which may have no relation to the truth. Sadly some will point to a 209 and assume what is in there is true without recognizing the agent has just put down what the informant told him.

I cannot really tell when a person is lying without having more information available and weighing it against what is stated. That is the problem I’ve faced in dealing with the Whitey saga. How do I select among the many lies which ones I believe?

I can’t put the people on a lie detector machine. Even if I could that sometimes can suggest a person is lying but its reliability is questionable. Most criminals tend to be good liars because it is second nature to them, especially those empty souls who murder people. They are dead inside, They don’t react to questions like most of us. I know that Larry Baione passed a lie detector test denying he was involved in a criminal act even when I knew for certain he committed it.

In the criminal justice system we know that many people lie or shade the facts. We admit that. To combat it we give the parties the right to cross-examine the other party. We believe that helps us come closer to the truth. Sometime it helps, other times it doesn’t. I don’t have that tool.

We also have juries. These people listen to a person’s testimony and try to figure out where the truth lies. They get it right at times. We have judges that do the same thing. They don’t have the advantage that a jury has where you have many minds working together to figure things out. Most judges just rely on themselves. A handful will use an aide or two sitting in the court to assist them. They are no more skilled than juries and probably less so.

Judge Mark Wolf is my favorite example of this. He listened to the testimony of Steve Flemmi.  He found when Flemmi identified his source for information who worked for the state police he was telling the truth. That turned out to be a clear lie. He found when Flemmi said where the Lancaster Street leak originated it was a lie. That was the truth. He had things absolutely reversed.

21 thoughts on “Judging Lies in the Whitey Bulger Saga: Part One of Two.

  1. Polygraphs are very useful. Though not admissible as evidence they give some good indication of whether person is credible or not. Where does the truth lie? It does not lie.

  2. What do you make of those who claim that much lying and truth-telling can be determined through close, skilled observation of body language? Is this merely so much snake oil?

    1. GOK:

      It might have some merit when dealing with the ordinary bloke. I’ve watched hundreds of witnesses testify and couldn’t pick it out from the body language but if I were an expert in studying that perhaps I might have. But it would never work with the professional. I watched Martorano, Weeks and Flemmi testify. Lying to them is the same as telling the truth so their body language remains the same. When Martorano was talking about his many murders his body language showed he was bored with the subject.

  3. Matt, you are into the heart of the matter. Additionally, we should ask, “When the FBI agent made out the 209 or 303 did he know he was fabricating or hedging or shading the truth and facts, or was he just sloppy or negligent in recording what he heard, or was it his level best attempt to be accurate. Even if the last, how many times have we honestly (in our minds and hearts) recounted what someone else told us, to find out later, we got it wrong, or not exactly right, or missed the nuance or missed the joke. But the ultimate test is, I think off the top of my head, did the story teller (whether Judge, FBI agent, other Fed, or criminal) (a) try to convey the facts and truth (i.e. did he fairly assess motive, mental states etc.) and (b) is the story teller generally Ia reliable person. Judges and prosecutors make mistakes; when they do so egregiously and flagrantly, I call their decision making corrupt: Intellectually corrupt or Constitutional Corrupt. The easiest example is the Parade case where about 16 Mass judges tried to force an unwanted group and pro-gay message (signs, symbols, pink triangles and banners) into the Veterans’ private St. Pat’s Day Parade. And it is not just Chester Darling, Paul Walkowski, Dwight Duncan, Dan Sumption and little old me that called that ‘corrupt”, but Nine Judges of the US Supreme Court said that all those Mass judges “had acted without lawful authority” in ordering the banner carrying gay group into the line of march. When judges act “without lawful authority” especially when they usurp or grossly misconstrue or do an “end-around” the First Amendment, I call that “corrupt” and I label those who did it “intellectually corrupt” and “constitutionally corrupt”. The usual defenders are idealogues like, in the Parade case, the ACLU, CLUM, GLAD, lawyers from Peabody & Arnold who represented GLIB, the Attorney General, the MCAD and all the law professors who wer silent while the Veterans cherished First Amendment free speech and free association rights were being crushed for four years running by the Massachusetts judiciary.
    So, we’ll muddle through and call a spade a spade, and a hoe a hoe!
    Carry on and keep up the good work unearthing the facts and truths behind this woeful saga. And don’t forget the Press and Media’s abysmal role in all of this!!! Quislings, one and all—at least most of them, with few exceptions!!!

  4. Mr. C, the comments on this blog appear in reverse chronological order. Can you please change that so we readers can follow them from the top down?

  5. Matt. Perhaps what I am about to ask would be best answered in a brand new post. What I would like to know from your perspective is what are the possible things Whitey could say IF he were to tell the truth? What could Whitey say that would be damaging to the DOJ and FBI and local Southie police officers? Also what “insight” could Whitey share on all the murders he was involved in? I ask this because it seems as though it would be a very big deal if Whitey had testified at his trial. Well what could he have said that would have been newsworthy?

    Also, what would be your questions to Whitey if you had him on the stand? For me I would like to know if he killed anyone of his victims with anger or revenge or fear as a motive? I would like to ask him when did he know he had the ability to end someones life? Why didnt he decide to do something different in those 9 years he was in prison so that he could walk away from being a criminal? Why didnt he kill Weeks and Flemmi to tie lose ends before fleeing? How did he deal with the stress of knowing that each day as a criminal could be his last on earth? There is a whole slew of questions

    1. Jerome:

      Good question. Probably goes to the nub of many of the issues that are flying around. Whitey would say he met with O’Sullivan and got the deal. He’d come up with some details to the meeting that would appear to make it sound like it really happened. It would not have been in the hotel room that Connoll talks about. They’d probably be some priest who was a go between playing off the Catholic connection. He’d have no other DOJ connections. He’d give us the names of probably six to eight FBI agents who he’d say was on his payroll and of a few Boston cops. I don’t think he had any state cops since Flemmi had one but he may say he had him also. He tell us how he was tipped off by Connolly, and possibly Morris or some other agents, about specific things including wiretaps. He’d say, as you know, he had nothing to do with the Wheeler and Callahan murders. He’d admit to doing Halloran but would justify it by saying Halloran was lying about him to the FBI so he had to do it in self defense. He’s say the Tommy King, Buddy Leonard and McGonagle murders were in self defense because they were out to get him. He’d try to put space between himself and Flemmi. Just to hear his take on these things and perhaps stories of other murders we know nothing about would have been riveting. I’ve always been taken by what the women who lived with him said about him: “he seemed to know everything that was going on.” So his historical knowledge of how the Boston underworld worked would be highly interesting.

      I wonder what I would ask him on the stand. I really can’t answer that now because I’d want to take a lot of time to think about it. I’d have to figure in doing that to make the question such that he couldn’t blow it away with a lie. We know he killed out of fear: not immediate fear but fear the Mullin guys, King, Leonard, and McGonagle were going to come after him at some point. The answer to your first question when did he now he had the abiiity to end someone’s life I can give you, right after he killed the first person. Tommy Sperrazza a vicious killer from this areas is reputed to have said once you get over killing the first person the rest are easy. Along that line I’d want to ask him when he killed his first person.

      I think in prison he did decide to change his life. He came out and got a construction job and worked nights at a courthouse. But after he was out for a while what he always was from his youth came back to him. He realized there was no action in the life he was leading. He was bored and felt he was not living up to his potential. He’d not have the money and women and status he yearned to have if he was just a working stiff. He had no education and a prison record so getting those things legitimately was impossible. So he went back to doing what he was good at, being a criminal.

      When he fled there was no need to kill Weeks or Flemmi. The charges he was fleeing from had nothing to do with them. They were relating to his activity in the gaming and loan sharking area. There were other witnesses who would be used to prove those cases. It was not until later that Flemmi and Weeks turned state’s evidence. Since he did, Flemmi has been in prison; I’m not sure why he didn’t come back and kill Weeks after Weeks did his time. Probably was comfortable out in California and had convinced himself he’d never be caught.

    2. Jerome:
      I left off one thing. You hit upon what would be the worst thing for me if I were a criminal. The inability to go to sleep at night without fearing someone would come by to interrupt it. I’d never have been able to put up with the idea that prison loomed in front of me. As for being gunned down, I guess Whitey put up with that stress by having available to him a decent cache of weapons. Look at how he lived in Santa Monica, he might as well have been doing time with his shades down all the time, peeking out to see if anyone is watching him, etc.

      1. Excellent analysis Matt. Regarding Whitey surviving so long in the Boston underworld are you saying he most likely didnt have that many people in law enforcement on the payroll? Was Whitey able to last so long simply because of his connection to Connolly and Morris and giving them information? Regarding your book have you been able to put pieces together as to what information Whitey may have supplied and also which criminals were killed or arrested and convicted based on information Whitey fed the feds?

        1. Jerome:

          The situation that existed for Whitey was that anytime any law enforcement organization tried to investigate him and they used the criminal justice information system (CJIS) then Whitey’s handler John Connolly would be notified. He then felt obligated to tell Whitey since he viewed his job as protecting him. The FBI agents who worked with Connolly were also obliged to turn over anything to him they heard about investigations against him. That’s a pretty good shield. Along with that Flemmi had a trooper in the MA State police providing him information on what they were doing. Whitey may have paid off some Boston cops but that was in-Southie stuff and really not for protection since they’d be street guys and not the detectives. He only need a couple of well place persons and he had all the protection he needed.

          Whitey and Flemmi participated in getting the lay-out of Angiulo’s headquarters, they provided the information for the wiretap at Vanessa’s where the Mafia was operating out of and they helped with the information leading to the taping of the Mafia induction ceremony. Whitey is claiming he knew nothing of that and is suggesting Flemmi gave the information without him knowing. I don’t buy it because Connolly rarely spoke to Flemmi and did most of his dealings with Whitey. The Halloran/Donohue deaths were the result of Whitey learning from the FBI that Halloran was jamming him in with respect to the Wheeler homicide. Those are things off the top of my head; I’m still working on some of it.

  6. … ” How do I select among the many lies which ones I believe? ” ….Matt, unwittingly or not you reveal the game. This is a sorry standard. Yet it is the prevailing one. At least you admit to it. Janice Uhlar, Juror number 12 had it right. The Trial was a parade of liars. Take my Word for it. 🙂

    1. John:

      True – but that’s what we ask the jurors to do is to decide where among the ton of lies is the truth. The chances of coming up 100% right are the same as winning one of those lottery games that gives out hundreds of millions.

  7. * … * Janet * Uhlar … In deference to this author, lecturer, screenplay writer and a Constitutional Scholar esteemed by her peers in her field, I want to get her name exact.

  8. Matt :

    Your response to Jerome’s question is interesting and …free… in a way of pre-suppositions that hinder clearsighted discovery of what actually happened. Refreshing … open to possibilities !!!! …. Bring it on presenters of fact and … Mr. Bulger what say you ??? …. For a variety of reasons he was not allowed to present the defense he wanted. Whether Judiciary, Press or Public scoffed at it before a Jury of 12 good men and women and true were allowed to hear it, the fact, the Constitutional fact, is that oir system of Jurisprudence guarantees any defendant that right . The manoeuvrings by Justice to deny him that right in this case were strenuous, unprecedented. and in a Game well worth the candle considering his bastard son relationship to the FBI … Transparent.

    1. John:

      You can’t have a trial over whether the moon is made of goats cheese or cow cheeses. A US attorney cannot do what Whitey alleged O’Sullivan did so the issue is closed. You don’t have a right to litigate an issue where there is no doubt as to the answer.

  9. “I cannot forecast to you the action of Whitey Bulger. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside of an enigma: But perhaps there is a key. That key is Whitey Bulger’s own self-interest.” -altered version of Churchill’s 1939 quote on Russia
    Still waiting to see the handwritten manuscripts…..
    and forthcoming book from Bulger family member…..
    Whatever form the next offering(s) from Bulger camp into the public consciousness takes, be sure that it will be the masterpiece of cumulative spin designed to frame his legacy in the best possible light, after he dies before appeal is exhausted, and charges are erased.

    1. Rather:

      That’s true, it was all about Whitey for Whitey. I’d like to see his handwritten manuscripts which, had we kept in mind their existance, would have made us realize they ruled out his ever testifying. Whatever he put in there Wyshak would have destroyed him with it.

      The book will be nice if it comes out. I’m thinking he was not wise to have a family member write it because those who are out there looking for restitution will be all over it claiming any proceeds must go the victim’s families. The potential litigation might scare away any book publisher.

      Even his death will not do away with the intrigue but as we trek along more and more of the coverings are being pulled away and we know we are getting closer and closer to the truth.

  10. Matt :

    I believe this is the issue before the Appeals Court right now. I wonder if they have the same fancies down in Fla about legal lunacy. For surely it is lunacy … legal lunacy. … that a maj has his conviction duly and properly overturned, yet somehow is still imprisoned due to the sheer caprice and vindicativeness of the State’s Attorney . Something stinks. And it ain’t cow’s cheese or goat cheese .

  11. * that a *** man *** has his conviction overturned etc.

    * due to the caprice and sheer ** vindictiveness** of the State’s Attorney.

  12. “Do we have any fool proof system that tells us when a person is lying or not?”
    Yes. They may be lying when their lips are moving when they speak or their hands are moving when they write or type.
    It is the fool who refuses to understand that anyone and everyone may lie, regardless of their position of employment or status. Some are more motivated to do so than others.
    So, who can you trust absolutely and completely?
    No one.

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